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Baltimore police union draws online criticism calling youths 'criminals' after Inner Harbor incident

The union representing the Baltimore Police Department’s rank-and-file officers stirred controversy on social media by calling some youths “criminals” after officers arrested several people while responding to a large gathering at the Inner Harbor.

The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3 wrote late Saturday on Twitter that while some officers were responding to a crowd of rowdy young people, they should “Protect each other and don’t fall into the trap they are only kids.”

“Some are criminals!” wrote the union president, Sgt. Mike Mancuso. “Keep the current polices and Consent Decree in mind. If ordered to arrest put the name of the on-scene Commander in all reporting.

The FOP tweeted six hours after police were first called to the Inner Harbor when the crowd gathered. Mancuso did not return calls for comment Sunday.

In a Facebook post, the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland responded that Mancuso’s statement was “UNACCEPTABLE!”

“We know that trust between community members and the police has been broken for a long time,” the organization wrote.

“Comments like this do nothing to repair that trust. Instead it encourages racial profiling tactics, excessive force, and excuses officers in advance for disregarding the rights of Black children.”

Police said officers began receiving reports of youths fighting downtown around 6:30 p.m. By 9:30 p.m., officers were directing bystanders away from the intersections of Light, Calvert and Commerce streets.

Six people were arrested for destruction of property and disorderly conduct, but nobody was seriously injured, police said.

By Sunday evening, the Inner Harbor was crowded with foot traffic as the Rath Yatra Festival of India took place not far away, at the corner of Light and East Pratt streets. At 7 p.m., a crowd gathered on the steps near the Tír na nÓg Irish Bar & Grill to watch a street entertainer perform magic tricks as police on foot watched nearby.

Detective Jeremy Silbert wrote in an email Sunday that the department had additional officers deployed to the Inner Harbor and will have an increased presence on Memorial Day.

He wrote that there were “several hundred juveniles at the Harbor” Saturday and that a patrol unit is designated specifically to the Inner Harbor, with support from downtown foot patrol officers.

Lester Davis, spokesman for Democratic Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young, said the mayor was “disappointed” in Mancuso’s comment and would have a conversation with him regarding the post.

“Obviously, the mayor has worked hard to restore relations between the community and police,” Davis said. “We just have to be mindful of the type of language we use.”

Davis added that public figures need to be mindful to not define a large group of youths “with a broad brush.”

Democratic City Councilman Eric Costello, who represents the 11th District, which includes the Inner Harbor, wrote on Facebook he’d spoken with leaders of the police department’s Central District who told him “at least one person was assaulted” and that there is “video footage of kids running across E. Pratt St on top of the hoods of cars.” He did not respond Sunday to a call for comment.

The Baltimore Sun has asked police to provide the footage.

State Sen. Jill Carter, a Baltimore Democrat, tweeted that the FOP comment was “contemptible and utterly unacceptable” and called for reform of the police department that would “deal with the culture of racism and inhumanity.”

She also pointed to the 2017 consent decree, which requires sweeping charges from Baltimore police after the U.S. Department of Justice found officers participated in unconstitutional and discriminatory procedures, especially in predominantly black, low-income neighborhoods.

pdavis@baltsun.com

twitter.com/PDavis_LLC

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