Look but Don’t Touch!

It’s time to have an honest discussion regarding Stop & Frisk and Investigative Stops. When did this practice get a bad rap? Let me tell you when….when some Officers misused their powers and treated ever citizen they saw as a suspect without legal justification. Instead of addressing the behavior of the specific Officers, the weak leadership at BPD decided to stand down on this tactic. Now a subject of the DOJ Consent Decree, it’s easy to hide behind the order. So now BPD will manage their Officers in accordance with a legal document rather than holding Officers accountable for their behavior.


To illustrate my point, let me tell you a personal story. As a rookie with BPD, I was excited to work on New Year’s Eve. In Baltimore the tradition for some is to illegally shoot their guns to ring in the New Year! Back then, a BPD practice was to find a safe area to park, avoiding celebratory gunfire. I felt like a coward, sitting in my car, safely tucked away in a shopping center parking lot. As the shots rang out, I was told to stay put. “Barksdale, don’t even think about it!” As we sat on our hands, I thought of all the missed gun arrests!


Fast forward to my first New Year’s Eve as Sergeant. This time, I wasn’t going to be a coward and I was taking my entire squad into Cherry Hill – at midnight! I knew this area; I worked it as an Officer. The Southern District Sector 2 included (1) one of the most concentrated violent gang areas Cherry Hill, and (2) a powerful violent heroin organization in Westport that stemmed from the Timmirror Stanfield Organization. I knew we’d catch gang members and dealers by surprise – nobody had bothered them in the past.


I remember our pack of marked cars. When we hit Cherry Hill Road, we turned off our lights and sped into the area to stop the lookouts from warning the neighborhood of BPD presence. Once in, I immediately saw a known violent drug dealer showing signs of being armed. I was focused on him as my Officers zoomed past my car. I stopped him and while frisking, I felt a gun. As I went to grab the gun, it began descending his pants leg. I was trying to trap it with both hands as it continued to slide down his leg, and then BANG! The gun went off. I saw a bright red flash and felt something whiz past my head. I couldn’t hear, I didn’t know if I was shot. One of my Officers got control of the suspect, and I got the gun.


Simultaneously, I could see one of my Officers at the other end of the block. He had a suspect in custody, and was waving the suspect’s Tec 9 auto pistol the air. Some of my Officers were still pursuing suspects and I didn’t have an eye on them. Suddenly gun fire broke out across the neighborhood. Happy New Year! I called for my squad to retreat. “Sector 2 retreat. Retreat!” I yelled over the radio. I was proud of what we’d done in a very short amount of time. We were successful because we knew the community,  and the criminals that we were dealing with. I had everyone regroup at Harbor Hospital while I had my suspect checked for injuries.


Why do I tell this story? Stop and Frisk and Investigative Stops are some of the most effective proactive tactics an Officer can utilize, especially in a community suffering from street gun violence and open air drug dealing. The decision by DOJ to condemn these tactics in high crime areas is asinine. Drug dealers and armed suspects often run from the police and now they know they can’t be stopped! The oxymoron is that Commissioner Davis admits that drugs, gangs, and guns are the focus in Baltimore. But….how can an Officer focus on these areas if they are not allowed to engage in these practices and without full support from leadership? The answer is they simply can’t! Worse yet is that DOJ, SAO, and BPD command has Officers across the city scared of using these crime preventing, life saving tactics, even when legal. Nobody can deal with the scrutiny! Maybe Chicago is making the right move by no longer seeking a Consent Decree! The bottom line is that if these tactics are executed correctly, Baltimore will see a reduction in crime!

Baltimore, Uncategorized

Up In Smoke

As police agencies across America struggle to find new officers and retain experienced officers, Baltimore’s Commissioner Kevin Davis pushed to lower the marijuana usage requirements. The NAACP supported the move and even patted themselves on the back for the lowering of standards of officers that would primarily serve black communities. What’s the motive? This is about minority hiring and staffing! This is not about getting the best officers, regardless of color, those that will soon be making split second life or death decisions.
Let’s nip this in the bud…. please tell me how the applicant with marijuana usage came into possession of the joint or bong. Don’t be naive, not every marijuana user got a joint passed to them at a frat party. Most in Baltimore, intentionally went to certain locations and purchased the drug at corners or blocks (“strips”) known for their marijuana dealers with good quality ganja. This means interaction with drug dealers and potentially a relationship was created with the dealer. How can we ensure that these officers will be objective?
The strength of marijuana has evolved over the years. In my early career, the smell was distinct, while later in my career, the smell would give me a headache. Let’s not forget that joints could be laced with additives like PCP (Love Boat) to crack (“Woolie blunt”), unbeknownst to the applicant! This isn’t your grandmother’s marijuana grown in your backyard.
Commissioner Davis isn’t from Baltimore and may not know this, but one of the most violent organizations Baltimore’s west side encountered was a marijuana organization. The name of their marijuana was “Arizona” and the leaders of the organization not only sold drugs, but put out murder contracts carried out by killers. The investigation lead by FAST detective Mike Coleman and ATF’s great Group Supervisor (now Supervisor At Charge) Steve Gerido, led to one of the most significant violence cases in Baltimore’s history.
I’m not happy or applauding the lowering of hiring standards and you shouldn’t either. It’s just the opposite. Commissioner Davis and Mayor Pugh should be tackling the issue of retaining experienced officers. Officers who met the standard and serve the public, making life or death decisions. Yet another bad decision for Baltimore.


Put Me in Coach

Last night at dinner, a few friends accused me of being an armchair quarterback. Well Tony, what would you do to stop the violence in Chicago? So, I’m putting on my Raven’s jersey and I’m blogging with a no huddle offense. Obviously, Chicago should never be in this situation. But it is what it is and now it’s time to take action! Let’s go!

As a former Deputy of Operations, I was the offensive coordinator for the team. Here’s my play book:

•Know the Opposing Team…do you have confirmed intelligence on the most violent individuals and gangs? Have you identified the worst areas? Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Have an intelligence meeting where all city, state and federal agencies share information.

• Know Your Team Capabilities…have you identified your most productive officers? Who has solid relationships with the community and a track record of arresting violent offenders? After vetting, assemble the team for the CPD Stabilization of Chicago Effort. Notify Federal law enforcement agencies with operations in Chicago, their participation is wanted.

•Review Your Offensive Plays…ensure your team is abreast of legal issues and trained in de-escalation through critical thinking and basic tactics. There will be police involved incidents and your team must be properly prepared.

•Color Commentary from the Analysts…the Mayor, Chief and his Public Information Officer start a media blitz to advise the public what’s coming. Citizens, community leaders, businesses, churches, schools, hospitals, correction officials, and courts must be notified at the highest levels.

•Kick Off…for this effort, CPD must deploy resources to the worst area for violence. The National Guard should be deployed to the other areas. This is about focus. Don’t have the courage to call in the Guard – there are other options!

•Offensive Line…deploy all resources and be as visible possible. With few exceptions, there are no plainclothes during this operation. Everyone is in their Home jersey!

•Review Instant Replays…inspect deployment and use management meetings to ensure you’re on track. Watch for blitzes and fumbles. If the criminals kill or shoot in your deployment area while on the field, you might be benched. This ensures you are on the winning team.

I can assure you, without a doubt, this will put Chicago in range to take the city into the violence reduction end zone! I’m trying to help. I pray to God someone in Chicago will take my advice.

Anti-Violence Model

A Violence Model That Works

 The more things change, the more they stay the same. Baltimore, Chicago, St. Louis and violence plagued cities in America suffering from violence must shed their cognitive biases. For these cities, community policing alone isn’t the answer. Chiefs and politicians love the image created by the community policing model, but citizens are still being slaughtered.  When I was a young narcotics detective, Baltimore tried community policing under Commissioner Frazier. Now no one recalls the ridiculously high homicide and shooting numbers during that period.

This approach is not rational and defies logic.  Thus the term cognitive biases.  Why are politicians and local police leaders ignoring the flashing warning lights of  high homicide and shooting rates?  Will community policing address this?

Sheriff Andy and Deputy Barney could implement a community policing model in Mayberry, because they didn’t have open air drug markets, violent gangs, stick-up boys, and so many unsolved homicides and shootings, that all one can do is pray for peace. My model turbocharges criminal intelligence gathering at all levels of the underworld, decreases stat driven arrests, lets patrol officers patrol, and gets the most violent criminals off the streets. While at the same time this model assisted overburdened detectives in closing open homicides, shootings, robberies and other crimes. With the help of our federal law enforcement partners and the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Program, we built solid cases for the United States Attorney’s Office and the Baltimore City State’s Attorneys Office to prosecute. This put a troubled city several steps ahead of the violence cycle, while helping communities get back on track.



An excerpt from the 2005 BPD Annual Report. The circled section highlights the successes due to the deployment of my model. The results are indisputable and got better with time.


Citizens are dying like lab rats, while behind closed doors  some police leaders, academics, consultants and politicians are making cozy big money deals with their alma maters, friends or hopeful future business partners. Recently Baltimore paid Bill Bratton, of NYPD fame, over $250,000 for a plan that had no impact. Newly appointed BPD Commissioner Kevin Davis and his alma mater Johns Hopkins have obtained $500,000 in grant funding to conduct studies and help with the crime fight. So that’s  $750,000 and things have not gotten better.

 In late 2007, the Dixon administration fully understood my model and made me the youngest Deputy Commissioner in the history of the Baltimore Police Department. My model was fully deployed in a single day. It didn’t cost the city a penny and we never released a written plan. Baltimore’s most violent communities were immediately impacted. Fast forward to 2011, Baltimore reached a historic drop to under 200 homicides. Since that time, the department has been in a state of flux.

 I grew up with the violence of west Baltimore, I’ve lost friends to gun violence. We were on the right track and continued to trend in the right direction, until reform and community policing were prioritized over saving lives. Now the crime fight has been turned into a university lab project. With the introduction of new leadership and new strategies,  all the great work has been undermined. I see no exigency or accountability for the spiking homicide and shooting rates. I won’t sit silently any longer.  Get over these cognitive biases, get back to effective policing and utilize my model.  The numbers speak for themselves – it worked!


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