A Baltimore councilman at war with city cops | COMMENTARY

Baltimore City Councilman Ryan Dorsey, D-3rd, criticized the Baltimore police, the police union and its president in a series of tweets on Feb. 19 and 20.

Baltimore City Councilman Ryan Dorsey calls the local police union a “racist brotherhood” and the union president “psychotic” and says he has no interest in engaging the city chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police in any kind of dialogue.

That language is shocking, vicious and counterproductive, but followers of Dorsey on Twitter are used to his rants on cops and, specifically, the FOP. In fact, the 3rd District councilman appears to relish being a constant critic of the union. On Saturday, after Mike Mancuso, the FOP Lodge 3 president, responded to Dorsey’s incendiary tweet, calling it “disgusting and mindless,” the councilman came back with this: “Wild how no matter how many times and ways I make clear I think FOP is a racist organization of bullies somehow they always react like it’s the first time, and in the most outraged way ….”


What set Dorsey off this time? He didn’t respond to my requests for comment, but it’s easy to discern the source of his ire from his tweets: The FOP’s resistance to police reform and police enforcement of marijuana laws.

In a tweet on Friday, Dorsey denigrated what the police called a “significant drug seizure” of 627 grams (or 1.38 pounds) of marijuana and $4,419 in cash from suspects on Cumberland Street in West Baltimore, an area known for drug dealing and violence. In October, a 27-year-old man named Lamont Randall was killed in the same block as the marijuana bust. In December, I wrote about another shooting that occurred just a block away.


On Feb. 17, the Baltimore Police Department reported the Cumberland Street bust and the arrests of four people, posting on Twitter and Facebook photographs of the marijuana.

Two days later, Dorsey mocked the bust. “This is not a ‘significant drug seizure.’ This is a bunch of weed,” the councilman tweeted, adding the hashtag “copaganda” — a blend of “cop” and “propaganda.”

Dorsey has a point about the inflated characterization of the bust. But he seemed to be suggesting it was a waste of police resources to be arresting anyone for having marijuana, even in an area where violence accompanies drug sales. And then there’s the fact that having 627 grams of weed is still against the law, something referenced in a Twitter response from one of Dorsey’s 3rd District constituents, Warren Banks: “If you have a problem with it, maybe you should get someone in Annapolis to change the law making Marijuana legal. Instead of bashing cops for enforcing laws that the legislators have yet to change.”

Speaking of Annapolis, the effort to repeal the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights, led by reform-minded state Sen. Jill Carter of Baltimore, has been subject to several amendments, leaving a bill that, in Carter’s words, “completely guts the concept of repeal.” For Dorsey, that’s apparently another reason for FOP scorn — and for not speaking to Mancuso or any representative of the union, including its former president Bob Cherry.

“Last week @BobbyCherryJr asked me to meet with him and his racist brotherhood’s psychotic president,” Dorsey tweeted on Saturday morning. “This week they lobbied to gut @jillpcarter’s LEOBR repeal. I haven’t the least interest in suffering these people. I’m totally fine having nothing to do with them.”

That tweet prompted a response from Mancuso, who called Dorsey’s comments an insult to police officers who are members of the FOP. “We deserve Mr. Dorsey’s support, not his hate and ridicule,” Mancuso said, adding that the councilman’s “immature behavior” warranted censure by the City Council.

I doubt that’s going to happen. I emailed all of Dorsey’s colleagues on City Council Monday and Tuesday to ask for their reactions to his tweets, but received no response. Not one.

Asked about Dorsey’s comments at a news conference on Monday, Mayor Brandon Scott said only that he had spoken separately to both Mancuso and Dorsey over the weekend, but did not divulge what was said.


At the same news conference, Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said he had called Dorsey on Saturday, told him that he had painted the police force with a “broad brush,” and that a unifying message was needed in the Baltimore crime fight.

With that, Dorsey took to Twitter again, this time to belittle Harrison for trying to stick up for officers who were offended by Dorsey’s rant but who won’t publicly disagree with their union or “disavow [its] white supremacy.”

And “even more ridiculous,” Dorsey added, “is that it’s only a matter of time before [the FOP] is lambasting [Harrison] again in Mancuso’s next Trumpian screed.”

Next month marks two years since Harrison became commissioner, and the FOP has been critical of him since shortly after he took the job. Mancuso has frequently complained about what he considers weak leadership, an “untenable” crime-fighting plan and not enough officers in the ranks. His tone almost always seems angry or confrontational.

Same with Dorsey, when the subject is cops.

The thing is, he’s a smart and creative guy who seems to really care about his constituents and the quality of their lives in Baltimore. Elected in 2016, he’s been part of the most productive and progressive City Councils in memory.


He and like-minded reformers think the FOP is too powerful and uses its power to protect bad cops. But the language Dorsey chose for this particular fight is way over the top, especially in light of the strides being made toward reform under the police department’s consent decree with the Justice Department. Just 10 days ago, the department reported that it had implemented a new “stops, searches and arrests” policy, another step toward eliminating the unconstitutional policing documented in a scathing Justice Department report in 2016.

Dorsey might think he’s only criticizing the union but a union is made up of the men and women who serve the citizens of Baltimore, thousands of them in his district. Do they want their city councilmen at constant war with the cops? I might be wrong, but I doubt it.