The Mail: 7/22/15

In Defense of Batts

There is an old Samurai adage that states:"Matters considered of great consequence are often unimportant, whereas matters deemed trivial, of little consequence, can have grave implications." This adage comes to mind regarding a blurb in the City Paper where Anthony Batts is called "reactive and slick" (Power Rankings, July 15).I know of Batts, having lived in the Bay Area many years, and while I was disheartened by recent events, these events demand careful scrutiny, not the creation of another media narrative that ends in political capital for the dysfunctional Baltimore administration. In describing Batts as such, the City Paper has inadvertently deconstructed a very dangerous and ignorant bias inherent in the media.


Batts is often looked upon as a different type of LEO/administrator, because of his education. Many media pieces describe how Baltimore needed a man of the streets, and wound up with Batts. Coming full circle in this narrative: Instead of the seasoned beat cop who knew Mrs. Jones and all her children, we now have the slickster riding into town making promises to the good people of Baltimore, and by golly this slickster could do nothing but react when the proverbial shit hit the fan. All those fancy degrees and reforms were nothing but a smoke screen . . . Wow! Is the City Paper really buying into this BS? Let's remember, at the very least,that the mayor had an opportunity to promote from within and it was her choice to hire Batts.

But the real devil in the details is the implication that slick equals education and reform-minded policy. The message is: A cop who has taken steps to increase his/her knowledge through education, as opposed to only beat experience, or placating his superiors, is trying to get one over on the people. The people deserve one of their own! And in rides this "Philadelphia Lawyer" (an expression my mother in law used to describe me, lol) who fools them! Actually, the people know better, many cops made a spectacular number of arrests under O'Malley's self-servingpolicies. Would it be a fair statement that the unethical nature of many of these arrests might be why the people's frustration hit critical mass with Freddie Gray?

If this narrative had a hint of truth, it might be excusable. Anecdotal information suggests thatmany of the media portrayed the"simple" folk of Baltimore. I have heard many individuals express disdain for the firing of Batts, calling it a way to protect the mayor. Contrary to the media narrative which subliminally wants to portray black people in these hoods as "simple-minded folk,"in the African-American neighborhoods, ground zero for this conflict,individual after individualexpress themselves articulately, intelligently, and many think the mayor had no right to fire Batts.But I guess them simple folk wouldn't know . . . Dey been outslicked by dat slickster who don't know how things work in Baltimore.

And that, folks, is always the refrain: namely that because things are so dysfunctional and corrupt here in Baltimore, nothing will work outside of Baltimore's system.This refrain is worn as a badge of honor. As a Bay Area resident, I can assure one that Oakland had many of the same residual, poverty-induced problems as Baltimore. Ask Detroit how far urban chauvinism got the city. You had a political system that was all about political capital and enrichment, and now? Working people lost most of their pensions, people of color cannot afford to socialize in the expensive, vulture-capital-colonized, renovated areas of the city. Make no mistake about Detroit because that is where Baltimore is going:Detroit was sold down the river by a primarily African-American bureaucracy. White institutional investors with connections to banks and flush with cash just waited and now have made Detroit a gentrified, soon-to-be exclusively white, upper-middle class paradise.So instead of lifelong Detroit residents, most of whom stuck with Detroit through thick and thin, you will have all the poor Brooklyn hipsters looking for the next Williamsburg. One should take some comfort in knowing that the fine ex-political establishment in that city, those that did not end up in prison, are quite comfortable economically.

Real reformers, in the know, with no axe to grind and with a genuine love for the culture of Baltimore, have expressed ideas similar to Batts. David Simon, for one, has called O'Malley out on police policies that violated individuals at the expense of statistics that look good on paper. Batts was mainly guilty of one thing, something the new commissioner will have to face, and not the ineptitude the media wants to sell.During the riots, Batts should have done the right thing. Knowing that the mayor was working on behalf of a constituency for political capital, with little, if any regard, for the consequences,Batts could have gone out on his shield.He was going to take the fall either way and could have backed his men and defied the mayor. This would have taught the establishment a much-needed lesson, but Batts was not up to it.

Regardless, the mayor's interferencein police matters is a serious problem precisely because it amounts to doing things like they are done in Baltimore, and will subsequently yield similar results. The mayor can then use the magic "A" word (accountability) and blame the police commissioner, just as was done with Batts. How very convenient, under the circumstances, to have an aspiring commissioner ready to prove himself to the mayor.Does the media even want to investigate, or recognize, a pattern where strong-willed, successful candidates that came up in Baltimore City have been rejected for the position of police commissioner? Probably because these men would not be micromanaged, put under the yoke of Baltimore's political elite? Isn't it ironic that there are individuals in Baltimore's corrupt system of political patronage who might actually act with a moral compass? These individuals are looked over, under the guise of trying to make changes to the system, probably because an out-of-town "slickster" will not challenge the mayor's authority.

It is more convenient to simply stereotype, or create a narrative that has become reified by the media, casting the people of Baltimore as simpletons, or the former police commissioner as a slickster, than to deal with the real problem.There is a systemic and inherent lack of ethics and lack of sympathy for people in the system. We see this in China when poor villagers, the real citizens of China, are destroyed by the corrupt state system;we see this in Baltimore, where the mayor and the system she represents is there for the purposes of self-aggrandizement and little else.

When addressing the riots, the mayor had more on her plate than most would imagine—she had to pacify her constituency, including not using a Hindu word that is quite apropos for the activity described. I guess her constituency bought the word "thug" and forgot to tell her! She had to make sure Batts would do as he was told, despite the obvious stupidity of the directives, and then, if possible, she had to deal with the citizenry. Priorities, priorities! If it seems like I am demonizing people like the mayor, and Mosby, I believe events that transpired speak for themselves.Subsequent forensic evidence—and I am waiting to see who Baltimore City can get to damage their credibility and write something to the contrary (everything has its price)—all clearly show what happenedwhen the riots occurred. The mayor's language and actions were also very clear and play into a pattern one observes time and time again here.A corrupt system of political patronage that has a language composed of doublespeak, and that clearly exploits the situation in Baltimore City.My only question is, does the City Paper really want to buy into this narrative where the word "accountability" is used in every other sentence but rarely if ever makes an actual appearance?

Darrell Simon



From the Web, Facebook, and Twitter


"System Failure: Anthony Batts could not reform a broken department and reduce the homicide rate"

He probably wouldn't spill the beans on what he was actually ordered to do or not to do. I think it would greatly hurt his chances of ever getting another job if he airs all the dirty laundry of a former boss (mayor). Ed Norris has and is in the process of writing a book that is going spill all the beans. He can, as a convicted felon— he doesn't have to worry about ANY job in law enforcement.

— "Bill Romansky," July 15

"Shittin' On 'Em: Duane 'Shorty' Davis uses toilets to protest injustice"

Brilliant!"@city_paper "See, you open the toilet and see [O'Malley's] face and associate it with a turd-@shortman_9

—"@PigtownPrincess," July 19

@city_paper @shortman_9 The glorious tradition of keeping our leaders in their place.

—"@LA_Denizen," July 19

"No Bueno: Canton's La Tolteca suffers from serious lack of spices and flavor"

I am Mexican from Mexico City. My first time at La Tolteca Bel Air left me so disappointed that I never went back.

—"@Jimelulu," July 14