U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein called on Baltimore business leaders to support city police officers to help control violence.
Rosenstein said the majority of city police are “honorable people trying to do the right thing and they deserve your support and they need your support.”
His comments came this week at the Greater Baltimore Committee’s annual meeting, where he was given an award for courage in public service for the 12 years he spent as U.S. attorney for Maryland.
During his brief address to the group of about 1,000 people, Rosenstein reflected on one of his last acts in Maryland before being tapped by the Trump administration to join the U.S. Department of Justice. Federal prosecutors under Rosenstein charged a Baltimore man in the 2014 shooting death of 3-year-old McKenzie Elliott.
The girl was struck by a stray bullet while playing on her porch in the Waverly neighborhood. Terrell Plummer was charged in the case for allegedly shooting at rivals and hitting McKenzie. Her murder drew widespread attention, leading city officials to rename her street in her honor on the day that she would have turned 4 years old in May 2015.
Rosenstein said his efforts alongside a team of others – including former Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III – were effective in helping to “build a safer Baltimore, a city where our children, all of our children, can live safely.” But he said he is worried about the city’s future, citing a recent news headline that described Baltimore as “a killing field.”
“Something has gone wrong: Our murder rate is headed toward a record high this year,” Rosenstein said Monday at a downtown hotel. “I came here tonight to tell you that we need to have the courage to restore safety to our streets. This is not a political issue. This is not a partisan issue. This is a commitment that we all need to share.
“We need to have the courage to support law enforcement – even though they are not always perfect, even though they are not always right – we need them to know we need them more than ever.”
Rosenstein mentioned an initiative involving the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to use a gun-tracing van in Baltimore to help combat the crime rate by trying to quickly solve gun crimes. The city needs more city officers on the streets “where they can protect kids like McKenzie Elliott, where they can clear drug dealers off street corners.”
Rosenstein said he prosecuted some city officers, but believes most serve with integrity and character.
“Have the courage to get tough on crime,” Rosenstein said. “Please, let’s stop ordering street signs for murdered children.”
Of the award, he said, “I will try to earn it.”