Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh meets at 8 every morning with more 30 department heads to talk about fighting crime in the city. (Kevin Richardson / Baltimore Sun video)
Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh observation that “crime is out of control” is reminiscent of Nero fiddling while Rome burned, although it is quite unlikely that the Roman Emperor Nero actually played a fiddle in 64 AD when a massive fire raged out of control and destroyed 70 percent of Rome. The fiddle was not invented until several centuries had passed. Nero was, however, an ineffective leader. Can you imagine what historians would have said if Nero had somehow had simply announced during the height of the fire, Rome is burning? That is essentially what Mayor Pugh has done (“Baltimore Mayor Pugh says crime ‘out of control,’ orders agencies to meet with police every morning,” Nov. 9). I have just completed a long Sunday morning run from Roland Park to Camden Yards and back. This is a great city, but it has a lot of problems, and I would much rather have a leader who is working on them and telling me what she is doing, rather than one who states the obvious.
The Baltimore City Police Department is deeply flawed and nothing that has been done so far is going to address that. The recent flood of news stories about members of the department are an indication that unless Mayor Pugh takes action soon, things are only going to get worse. The death of Freddie Gray two years ago opened a window to the world that showed there were some problems with the way members of the department interacted with citizens. What we have seen in recent months has only deepened the suspicions of some that there something truly wrong.
The state of policing in Baltimore reminds me of New York City where I lived as a law student in the 1970s. The New York Police Department was rife with corruption and poor leadership which had led to mistreatment of residents. Officers were found to have planted evidence and stolen money and drugs from drug dealers. Officers abused overtime and routinely took bribes. Officers abused the public trust placed in them to enrich themselves. The commanders, captains, lieutenants and sergeants had either become part of the corruption or they were totally incompetent. Sound familiar? New York’s mayor appointed a blue ribbon commission, the Knapp Commission, to investigate the NYPD. The commission held hearings and issued findings in a report which recommended that commanders should be held accountable for their subordinates' actions and file periodic reports on key aspects that would breed corruption, and that field offices of the Internal Affairs division should be created at all precincts. Further, it recommended that undercover informants be placed in all precincts, and that screening and selection methods and standards for all new recruits and for promotion be improved.
In addition to those things contained in the consent decree that the U.S. Department of Justice and Baltimore entered into, the same goals that the Knapp commission recommended must be put in place in Baltimore.