The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3 president, Sgt. Mike Mancuso, stirred controversy on social media on Saturday night. He wrote on Twitter that some of the youths are “criminals” after officers arrested some people while responding to a large crowd at the Inner Harbor.

I take strong issue with Dana Vickers Shelley’s oped commentary in The Sun (“Maryland leaders, will you take a pledge to support black kids?” May 30). The commentary ignores the fundamental reality of our growing lawless behaviors and consequent public safety problems that not only threaten our city population, but deter tourism and promote population loss as families simply can’t stand living in a city where the threat of violent criminal behavior is rampant throughout all of our neighborhoods.

The primary theme of these ubiquitous diatribes is that any condemning statements by public officials are assumed to be inherently racially motivated. A good example is the condemnation of Baltimore FOP President Mike Mancuso’s statement “don’t fall into the trap that they are only kids. Some are criminals!” Well, as video evidence clearly showed, and as even Mayor Bernard C. "Jack” Young stated, “some” of the kids were clearly involved in criminal activities. Not all – just some – the exact same qualified statement by Mr. Mancuso.

Advertisement

Secondly, why even bring race into this discussion? Baltimore is a predominantly black city, and accordingly a large percentage of youth are black. What if the same events had occurred with a predominately white youth group, doing the exact same criminal activities? The reaction, appropriately, would have been the same, and likely harsher, absent the mitigating comments excusing the black youth behaviors. The commentary’s statement that “black children must be allowed to make mistakes … without being targeted, stereotyped and labeled as criminal” blatantly ignores that the general reaction to the activity was that legitimate “criminal” activity was recorded, and excusing that behavior with statements like that does nothing to promote the youth involved in learning from their “mistakes.”

As far as stating that negative public comments encourage racial profiling and excessive force, all reports, reinforced by the mayor and police commissioner’s public comments conclude just the opposite reaction. The police acted as they should have, ensuring that the youth had the opportunity to get together in a group, while only taking proactive and appropriate action when true criminal activities were observed.There was no racial profiling — all youth participants were of the same race. The only actions taken by the police were in response to criminal activities. The lesson we should all learn from this is that Baltimore cannot begin to shed its growing reputation as an unsafe city if we allow these kinds of frightening and clearly threatening behaviors to happen.

A criminal activity results in harm to citizens and property, and consequences for those committing those activities should be the same regardless of the race or ethnic composition of the groups involved. Arguing for the ability of underprivileged youth to peacefully gather is a worthy and needed endeavor. But to excuse the inexcusable criminal behavior occurring in those gatherings does nothing towards achieving our common city objective to improve public safety. It is a primary responsibility of the police and city officials to keep its citizens safe, and excusing criminal behavior shows a lack of commitment to that responsibility.

Jerry Cothran, Baltimore

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement