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Blame O'Malley for the Baltimore riots?

Throughout the governorship of Martin O'Malley, I sat in the Judiciary Committee listening to citizens of Baltimore tell stories about how they were arrested for seemingly innocuous events. Citizens testified that many of these arrests occurred while Martin O'Malley was the mayor of Baltimore and that some arrests continued after he had become the governor.

Under Mr. O'Malley, the Baltimore Police adopted a theory of policing based upon zero tolerance. No matter how small the infraction, they were to arrest the person. Whether the person is sitting on the stoop drinking a beer, littering or spitting on the sidewalk O'Malley policies demanded an arrest. Why? Because they might become tomorrow's bank robber.

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The "broken windows" theory for stopping an acceleration of crime does not work well when human beings are concerned. Humans have rights. They have dignity, feelings and pride. When zero tolerance is applied to law enforcement in a neighborhood and people are arrested for littering while sitting on the steps of their home, taken to jail, and then never even charged with a crime, they end up with a record for having been arrested without the chance to challenge the charges. It results in a record that has numerous adverse effects, including stifling their ability to get a job or maintain one.

Tens of thousands of citizens cannot be treated in this manner without a deterioration in the relationship between the enforcers of this policy and those whom it is being enforced upon. Mr. O'Malley was aware of what was occurring and took the same attitude toward minorities in the city as toward law-abiding gun owners by arresting anyone carrying any gun, legal or not.

I sat in the Judiciary Committee listening as Del. Jill Carter brought this problem to our attention. The ACLU, the NAACP and countless citizens came before our committee and told us of these practices. Interestingly, the Democrat leadership in the legislature chose to protect Mr. O'Malley instead of the 250,000 minority citizens who were the victims of the O'Malley administration policing policy.

By honoring my oath to uphold the Constitution, I found myself allied with the ACLU, NAACP and brave Democrats like Jill Carter, who spoke out for her constituents despite the potential embarrassment to the Democrat governor.

We made attempts to alleviate the distrust, and those items can still be implemented today. For example, we offered a list of crimes for which arrest was not necessary but rather left to the discretion of the officer to either give a citation to the offender to appear in court for the offense, or to arrest if it were deemed necessary by the officer. This bill flew through the Judiciary Committee and the Maryland House with bipartisan support, but was picked apart in the Senate.

Delegate Carter also offered legislation, and stood up against the tyrannical policies of the O'Malley administration. Delegate Carter's legislation was ultimately rejected. A bill of Del. Haynes' established automatic expungement of the arrest records of those who were arrested but never charged with any crime. It passed and helped to relieve some of the injury done to individuals arrested but not charged. However, it did not address the distrust entrenched within this community by the systemic unconstitutional police actions.

In 2012, a report was released with recommendations regarding Baltimore Police Department's (BPD) police policy changes. In addition there was a minority report issued by the BPD FOP, Lodge 3. The FOP report requested better training for all officers and punishment for bad officers. The politicians running Baltimore have ignored the call by the BPD to provide some simple effective changes which many are now calling for as a result of the death of Freddie Gray.

O'Malley's policies as mayor contributed to the current riots, but he is not alone in responsibility. Those who knew about the unconstitutional actions of then Mayor O'Malley and did nothing when they possessed the power and obligation to do so, are also responsible.

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Will those who have an obligation to report the truth about the history of Mr. O'Malley's failed policies, and the continuation of those policies, now do so?

What we do know is that Presidential Candidate O'Malley, will do what Governor O'Malley and Mayor O'Malley did before, which is to try to ignore responsibility for the effects of years of zero tolerance law enforcement practices that led to over 250,000 Baltimore residents being arrested but not charged.

Michael D. Smigiel Sr. is a former Maryland delegate, attorney and current U.S. congressional candidate. His email is delegatemikesmigiel@gmail.com.

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