The new body cam footage of two Baltimore Police officers discussing running residents’ names, something the ACLU takes big issue with following the fatal shooting of Det. Sean Suiter.

Whoever gets the job as Baltimore’s next police commissioner should be the recipient of the report crafted by the “Independent Review Board” (IRB) panel charged with investigating the events surrounding Det. Sean Suiter’s death — not interim top cop Gary Tuggle.

In a recent article, The Baltimore Sun’s Justin Fenton reported that the board’s findings, while delayed, are expected to be turned over to Baltimore Police Department for review in a few weeks (“Independent review of Police Det. Suiter’s death nears completion; could be made public within a month,” July 31). The IRB should hold on to its report for about a month longer until the Baltimore City Council can, as expected, vet the mayor’s next pick as police commissioner.

Advertisement

The people of Baltimore have been through too much to have this illegitimate board rule on the behavior of the plethora of officers unleashed on Harlem Park residents. Detective Suiter’s unsolved murder stirs emotions equal to those involving the death of Freddie Gray. Yes, the uprising was quelled, but the underlying distrust and fears have been stoked by subsequent revelations of criminal behavior and the drug enterprise within the department. Not to mention that Acting Commissioner Tuggle won’t be around to carry out any discipline or implement any recommendations suggested by the board.

The department and the city should not be subjected to more upheaval, uncertainty and turnover than they already have. If the FBI declined the job of taking over the investigation of Mr. Suiter’s murder when the feds have been embedded from the ground floor, the motives of disgraced ex-Baltimore Police Commissioner Darryl De Sousa should be highly scrutinized. Suspicions regarding the convening of this panel include but are not limited to:

First, Mr. De Sousa was the sole person responsible for hand-picking each IRB member. Second, Mr. Tuggle was hand selected by Mr. DeSousa as his deputy. Mr. Tuggle has not been vetted by the City Council. The review board is also paid by the police department. Board co-chair James “Chip” Stewart explains the board’s independence as having members come from both outside and inside of the police department. Further, there is no citizen representative or advocate on the panel. The consent decree community oversight committee hasn’t been included in the process.

At its first public meeting, the IRB made promises to have a community liaison, interact with consent decree monitors and include in their process the Citizen Review Board (CRB). It appears none of these promises have come to fruition. Then, at IRB’s second meeting, The Sun’s Jessica Anderson reported on May 15 that the feds provided only “tangential” information regarding Suiter’s involvement with the officers of the Gun Trace Task Force. The limitations of this board are apparent since the feds have seen fit to provide just enough information that gives them a limited “opaque” view of Suiter’s involvement. If the feds don’t trust this board with sensitive information, then why should we?

Let’s face it. Speculations are high that Detective Suiter’s death was an inside job. Who really believes he staged a homicide to look like a suicide and used his service weapon — all in front of witnesses? It is with good reason feds aren’t talking to this board about Suiter’s planned testimony. Perhaps he had immunity for being a federal witness against Wayne Jenkins and the others? That would diminish any budding suicide theories. Gov. Larry Hogan might be well served to have the National Guard on speed dial if and when such foolishness is presented.

At its most recent “meeting” via conference call on July 31, the panel revealed it needed more time to submit its draft report because it requested additional forensic tests. The board expects the test results to reveal one of the four possible conclusions about Suiter’s death: It was an accident, it was intentional by him, it was intentional by someone outside the police department or it was intentional by someone inside the department.

Swirling questions about the botched Suiter investigation began before Mr. DeSousa with Commissioner Kevin Davis, who was unceremoniously dumped by Mayor Catherine Pugh. According to ex-Commissioner Davis, city homicide detectives’ efforts were hampered by refusal to share information collected by the collaboration of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Department of Justice, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. These federal agencies were all investigating the Baltimore Police Department and its Gun Trace Task Force along with Suiter’s death from the beginning. Now if all these federal agencies collaborated on a panel to review the case, that would be beneficial, legitimate and yes, independent.

Citizens cannot stomach and should not be subjected to any misleading media characterization of the board’s independence especially if all of the truly independent agencies have been shut out of process and citizens have been kept in the dark. Too much is at risk with a city teetering on the edge.

Keesha Ha, Baltimore

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement