O'Malley tried to offer mayor crime-fighting tips before leaving office

Before leaving office, O'Malley offered crime-fighting tips to Rawlings-Blake via email.

As recently as January, former Gov. Martin O'Malley personally offered state help for Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake's crime-fighting efforts.

The Democratic former mayor wrote an email to Rawlings-Blake on Jan. 13, a little more than an hour before he appeared at a morning news conference with Prince George's County officials to praise that jurisdiction's reductions in crime and its partnerships with the state.

"I'm going to send you a short list of IT related collaborations that could be of great help to the crime fight in Baltimore City," O'Malley wrote in an email sent from his iPad, according to a copy obtained by The Baltimore Sun through a Public Information Act Request.

"We meet, heads nod, but the follow-up doesn't happen. Crimes go unsolved, warrants on violent offenders go unserved, etc. Other jurisdictions have seen the benefit."

Rawlings-Blake's reply, which came a half-hour later: "Got it. I will await your list."

"Thanks," O'Malley wrote to the mayor. "Not trying to be pushy. Not trying to boss. It's just going to get a lot harder to get these collaborations going after next week."

The former governor was referring to his imminent departure from office and Republican Gov. Larry Hogan's inauguration. It's unclear what information technology projects they're talking about, and if the list was ever sent.

The exchange happened three months before Freddie Gray's arrest and death and the ensuing unrest and violence in Baltimore. At the time, O'Malley was contemplating a run for president. He announced his candidacy a week ago, highlighting a crime-fighting record that is being newly scrutinized.

Rawlings-Blake spokesman Kevin Harris said he wasn't aware of the email exchange but that it was characteristic of their frequent communications.

"I would say it was a normal conversation where the Governor regularly offered his support for Baltimore and always made himself available to the Mayor to provide any assistance in the crime fight," Harris said in an email. "The Mayor and Governor over the years had many conversations and swapped ideas of steps that could be taken to improve public safety."

In fact, O'Malley and Rawlings-Blake have disagreed rather publicly. Last year Rawlings-Blake's administration — facing allegations of brutality in the city's Police Department — argued in a report that O'Malley's policing strategies as mayor "ignited a rift between the citizens and the police, which still exists today."

O'Malley supporters have noted that his aggressive, zero-tolerance police strategy had been rehashed through three elections in which O'Malley received overwhelming support in African-American communities often affected by the policy.

O'Malley and Rawlings-Blake tussled over the same issue in 2013, when the governor questioned a drop in arrests in Baltimore and suggested the decline led to a rise in crime.

"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," O'Malley wrote in a 2013 op-ed in The Baltimore Sun. "So long as levels of enforcement continue to decline, shootings and homicides will continue to go up."

Rawlings-Blake disputed the assertion last fall, arguing that while "returning to the days of mass arrests … might be a good talking point," it had proven "a far less effective strategy for actually reducing crime."

Under Rawlings-Blake in 2011, the city experienced fewer than 200 homicides for the first time since the late 1970s. The number of killings rose to 233 in 2013, and nonfatal shootings jumped for the first time in six years.

May was the city's deadliest month since the 1970s, with 42 homicides. The spike came as arrests plunged.

ddonovan@baltsun.com

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