Gansler challenges Brown on city arrests issue

Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler challenged Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown on Thursday to take a tougher stance in the widening dispute over arrest rates in Baltimore.

Gansler, who formally entered the Democratic primary for governor this week, sharply criticized his rival for not staking out a more decisive position in the rift between Gov. Martin O'Malley and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake over whether the city arrests enough people to deter violence.

"Does Anthony Brown agree with Governor O'Malley's position supporting mass arrests and does he stand by his boss's description of people who disagree with his policy ... as 'lefty ideologues?' " Gansler said in a statement to The Baltimore Sun. "Unfortunately, Brown has refused to say where he stands, offering only evasive and generic talking points instead of clear leadership. Brown should stop hiding on the issue and take a stand."

Gansler criticized O'Malley for suggesting that more arrests would lead to reduced crime, saying the zero-tolerance policies of O'Malley's tenure as mayor were "exactly wrong." Gansler sided with Rawlings-Blake's contention that communities are better off with fewer, more targeted sweeps and not "mass arrests."

O'Malley has not advocated a return to the days when one in six Baltimore residents was arrested under an aggressive policing policy that sparked legal troubles for the city. But in an op-ed piece published in The Baltimore Sun, O'Malley cited the zero-tolerance policies of his days as mayor and called for more arrests given the increased number of homicides.

"Despite the protests of the ideologues on the left — who see all increases in arrests, police response or enforcement as bad — discourtesy and excessive force complaints actually went down," the governor wrote.

The mayor said the governor's talk of increased arrests caused "anxiety" that "we're going back to a time when communities felt like their kids were under siege."

Brown initially declined to enter the fray Wednesday, but later released a statement. His campaign declined to offer further comments on the issue Thursday, instead referring to part of the previous day's statement:

"The goal of law enforcement strategies is not to produce arrests, it's to reduce crime, to make our neighborhoods safer," it read. "The state and Baltimore City have a responsibility to work together to ensure that this happens."

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