State Sen. Michael Hough wants to hear from Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake about why city police reacted the way they did during the riots in April.
We'd suggest he get in line. There are a lot of people, politicians and members of the media who want to hear more details from the mayor and others who played a role in dealing with the events in Baltimore earlier this year.
Hough, a Republican who represents parts of Carroll and Frederick counties, along with Del. William Folden, a Republican from Frederick County, sent a letter to the chairs of the Public Safety and Policing Workgroup to ask them to request that they ask Rawlings-Blake to appear before the group to answer some questions. The work group was formed in the aftermath of the Baltimore riots and was set up by the legislature to look at police policies and the relationship police have with the communities they serve.
What Hough and Folden are asking for is significant in several ways. First, if the work group is charged with taking a look at law enforcement procedures across the state, what better person to offer insight to decisions made during the Baltimore riots than its mayor? Understanding why decisions were made is going to be critical for this group to do its job. It'll be important to understand why, for example, police were asked to "stand down" against the rioters and who made that decision. The request is being made at about the same time that two dozen organizations, mostly churches, civil rights groups and unions, are calling for statewide policing reforms to be considered by the legislature when it reconvenes in January.
Hearing from Rawlings-Blake, who was at the center this situation, might also help shape some potential reforms not only in policing but might also help develop a better understanding of the needs of the community. While the committee is at it, community leaders and police officials need to be there too.
But we can't ignore the politics and theater that come with this request. Getting Rawlings-Blake to meet with the committee could morph into a media circus with political opponents using it for their own grandstanding. That can't be allowed to be the case and, to be clear, we're not suggesting that's the point of Hough and Folden's letter. We can also anticipate that the mayor might be told that it's too soon to talk specifics while a criminal trial and the inevitable civil cases drag through the courts. We'll see what she does, assuming the invitation is extended by the work group co-chairs.