The current situation in Baltimore reminds me of 1990s New York City: high crime rates, corruption scandals, confused police executives, feckless politicians and a fearless criminal element. As a witness to history, I saw how a U-turn can happen under the right political leadership.
But today, it appears as if politicians are more concerned about a police action going badly than the actual violent crime itself. Politicians have no accountability; no one calls them out on the carpet, and the national media has turned a blind eye. When was the last time, if at all, a major cable news network did an expose on the unabated violence in Baltimore? They nearly did during the feud between the late Congressman Elijah Cummings and President Trump a few months back. Then they backed off.
Political leaders, including the mayor and City Council members, set the tone, and right now that tone is apathy and ignorance — who knows and who cares?
Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison should get back to basics. Forget “micro-zones” and spy planes, and do actual police work. Police work is a science. Analyze crime, target the illegal guns and those with outstanding warrants. Keep on top of your parolees, registered sex offenders and domestic violence recidivists. Street contacts are a must. Identify shooters and homicide suspects quickly. Engage with proven new technologies such as license plate readers and police run surveillance cameras. They should be ubiquitous and overt, so that both the public and the criminals are put on notice — full transparency. Investigate violence rigorously, make arrests and build prosecutable cases to mitigate further victimization. If training is required, do it already.
The state’s attorney for Baltimore, Marilyn Mosby, claims she has a list of cops that have tainted hundreds of cases. The Baltimore Police Department should reassign those officers to non-enforcement duties until a proper internal investigation is conducted. If it is found out that they lied, fire them. Until then, this is another Mosby smokescreen. Her office’s actions are under fire by the governor. How many plea deals were given to violent criminals for her conviction rate statistic? There should be a full audit conducted on who got deals, what their criminal history was and whether the individual has reoffended since. And if there was a new offense, were they again offered another plea deal? If so, how and why? The findings should be made public.
Governor Hogan should immediately dispatch the Maryland State Police to backfill a shrinking BPD and not just do warrants as planned. State homicide investigators should support BPD to help identify suspects in non-fatal shootings and murders. The full resources of the state should be used to stem the violence, including state prosecutors; we should hire more immediately and send the best prosecutors along with the rookies to handle violent cases. Baptism by fire. No bail, no pleas, no nothing. Deterrence may prove beneficial in the long run. In addition, governor, you must ensure that the local hospitals that deal with the daily violence are properly equipped, trained and staffed. Saving lives after a shooting should be part of the crime plan.
I’m not finished. President Trump, I believe you said that you’d stop the American carnage. But you haven’t. I haven’t heard one policy suggestion or change for cities like Baltimore, Chicago, St. Louis and Philadelphia, etc., nor have I heard about a crime plan to help alleviate the violence in the inner-city neighborhoods. These areas need federal law enforcement intervention and funding now. If warranted, maybe the RICO statute should be used against street gangs.
I didn’t think that the violence in these cities could get any worse, but then a wave of progressive state’s attorneys and politicians said, “Hold my beer.” How many more people must die before the public demands that enough is enough?
Joseph Giacalone (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a retired NYPD sergeant, author and adjunct professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.