Baltimore City State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby spoke about how to stop gun violence at the Bmore United rally, an outreach effort to be proactive in providing safe and productive alternative activities in the summer.
Baltimore City State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby spoke about how to stop gun violence at the Bmore United rally, an outreach effort to be proactive in providing safe and productive alternative activities in the summer. (Amy Davis, Baltimore Sun)

Marilyn Mosby’s office’s effort to overturn 790 Gun Trace Task Force convictions, since the passage of recent legislation making that effort easier, is a positive step forward.

However, the list of names provided by her office of 25 current and former officers that her office identified as having credibility issues was reckless and confusing (“Mosby lists 25 Baltimore police officers as discredited; prosecutors begin wiping out 790 convictions,” Oct. 4). For many reasons, it points to the need for civilian oversight in processes related to righting the wrongs of the task force within the state’s attorney’s office and other agencies.

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One of the named officers, Sean Suiter, is dead while a few others are still on the force. Most of the rest of them have been indicted, convicted or investigated for crimes, but it is hardly an exhaustive list of recent cops involved in criminality. Indeed, the list appears to be officers named on cases that the office is seeking to overturn, although Ms. Mosby presented them to The Sun and other outlets as something more. In doing so, she implicated them (and Suiter’s family) in possible liability in future lawsuits. She has also not stated that the current officers will be put on a “do not call” list, i.e., officers who won’t be presented in court as complainants or witnesses.

Ms. Mosby was praised for taking on dirty cops by the local leader of the NAACP and several national activists and publications. Left out of that narrative, as many noted on social media, was her own office’s involvement in those convictions. For years, her office was presented with knowledge from the community, attorney and even the courts that many of the officers were problematic. That “mea culpa” from her office could go a long way toward healing in this city. The entire discussion around the gun trace task force from city leaders seems to be about avoiding that “mea culpa.”

Andre Davis is fighting efforts to hold the city responsible for rogue cops. The police department is refusing to do an exhaustive internal inventory. Both cite the fear of reprisals from lawsuits. They do this in the city’s interests, nominally, but residents are not being asked if they prefer to pay or withhold payment. Thousands of those residents were victims of gun trace task force officers. Residents deserve formal, heartfelt apologies from the city. More than that, they deserve a voice.

Civilian oversight is needed in terms of decisions being made about how to right the wrongs of the task froce. Citizens are too often treated with disdain and superiority by city leaders and agencies. That dismissiveness is one reason the task force was allowed to flourish as civilian complaints were ignored for a decade about these officers. Civilian oversight is also needed to help ensure that conflicts of interest do not play a role in how city agencies hold police officers accountable going forward.

It is well known that the police department has conflicts of interest in terms of investigating its own, but state’s attorney prosecutors also have friendships with officers, involvement on their cases and political interests.

In conclusion, Ms. Mosby released a list of names of “discredited” cops as part of her political statement about overturning guntrace task force cases without making clear what that list really meant. It was yet another act by a conflicted city agency being allowed to act on its own to clean up its own mess. It’s time for the citizens to get involved.

Justine Barron, Baltimore

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