As a public defender, I can tell you that nothing the Baltimore Police Department has done to change has been done without a fight. Despite being the subject of a federal consent decree — a result of the in-custody death of Freddie Gray in 2015 — they are still fighting to protect dirty cops. The battle to expose their records of misconduct rage in the courts of Baltimore every day. Their claim that they are willingly being transparent because they don’t want bad cops in their ranks rings hollow. Most every day, defense attorneys are asking the courts to force the hand of the police and prosecutors so that the actions of their officers can be judged in the context of their patterns of behavior and practices on the job (”Mother sought second protective order from Baltimore Police officer husband, the same day her son was found dead in Curtis Bay,” July 9).
BPD representatives will stand at the podium during news conferences to proudly report on the latest big arrest in their effort to convince civilians that their only concern is public safety. Yet, when asked by the public for help, they seemingly hide like a fugitive. The message that the citizens receive is one of disdain. The department’s actions suggest that their concern is to pursue the cases that are important to the department. The officers flock to the cases that are newsworthy, apparently so that they can include them in their public relations campaign. But when asked to respond to the more run-of-the-mill cases, they often take their time and arrive prepared to explain why there is nothing they can do.
They make themselves completely inaccessible to the citizens when called upon in times that are of importance to the people they feign concern for. Try calling the police department. You often will encounter a phone that rings endlessly. There is no one answering the phones to put you in touch with the person you are attempting to speak to or to take a report.
If you are seeking help in the form of officer testimony or production of police records, forget it. A police department determined to improve the relationship members have with residents would make these things easy to obtain. But in my experience, the BPD of 2021, years after entering a consent decree, has made it more difficult than ever. Not even a court order, in the form of a subpoena, makes it possible. They have enacted policies forbidding service by an agent of the department on behalf of another employee because, it appears, they can’t trust their own officers to give these subpoenas to the officer for whom it is intended. All subpoenas must go directly to the intended officer. But process servers find it impossible accomplish this when there is no one at the police department who can put the server in touch with that officer.
I keep hearing that the department isn’t staffed because of COVID-19. This seems like a convenient excuse. Police services are emergency services. All other emergency services have managed to remain in operation throughout the pandemic by making accommodations. This is just the ultimate passive aggressive move by a department that is only interested in operating on its own terms.
Amy L. Wilson, Baltimore
The writer is an assistant public defender in Baltimore City Juvenile Court. The opinions expressed are her own, and not necessarily those of the Maryland Office of the Public Defender.
Add your voice: Respond to this piece or other Sun content by submitting your own letter.