Baltimore

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!

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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.

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