The leadership of the Vanguard Justice Society welcomes the challenge from Commissioner Anthony Batts to "stand and project [our] voice" against any misconduct by Baltimore police officers and we stand firm against any actions that lead residents to distrust the Baltimore Police Department ("Baltimore police commissioner: There is a cost to reform," June 19). By the same token, we urge him to stand and project his voice in support of all officers who uphold the laws and honorable traditions of the BPD as they risk their lives on a daily basis.
Since its founding in 1971, Vanguard has been working to build an honest and efficient police force that is trusted and respected by the community as well as respected by its own officers. And in the wake of recent unrest and distrust, we recommit to our long-held goals to establish a strong, positive relationship with the community. For this reason, we are compelled to speak out when we feel that the safety of the public and/or our officers may be in jeopardy.
Although Commissioner Batts claims credit for reforms in "ethics, training, discipline, equipment, efficiencies and policies," we anticipate that the U.S. Department of Justice investigation into the force's practices and procedures — which Vanguard has repeatedly welcomed — will show that the department still has a very long way to go. In addition, we anxiously await the results of the pending Freedom of Information Act request by the Fraternal Order of Police that may reveal a clearer picture of the deployment of public safety resources prior to, during and immediately after the civil disturbance on April 27 — actions that we fear may have, and continue to, put both police officers and the public at risk.
Ultimately, Vanguard's primary concerns are for the residents we serve. Policing is not just about enforcement, it is also about proactive community outreach and engagement, something that has been noticeably missing. We want to make everyone aware that Vanguard stands ready to assist anyone who is truly interested in closing the critical gap that unfortunately has put cops and the community on opposite sides. This purpose is what Vanguard has been dedicated to for the entire time of our almost 50 years of existence. Today, we are even more committed to rebuilding "Charm City" so that it will once again be viewed as a safe place to live and work.
Lt. Kenny Butler, Baltimore
The writer is president of the Vanguard Justice Society.