The Battle of Mondawmin

Caution: this post contains some graphic images & videos of organized police violence against black youth.

Most of the injuries, arrests, looting, arson, and property destruction occurring during the so-called Baltimore Riots took place (so far) on the night of Monday, April 27. They followed a confrontation between heavily armed police and school-age children which took place at Mondawmin Mall, starting at 3PM. This event should be considered a critical moment in the unfolding of the “Riots” because it marked the beginning of organized police action and was narratively linked to the wave of mayhem which moved, from 3PM to midnight, along North Avenue, and south-eastward down Pennsylvania Avenue. With blame still flowing freely in the commentary on this incident, it is crucial to understand how things began. Juvenile delinquency? Political rage? Police provocation? Where is the evidence? Who else played a role? We know that the citizens of Baltimore are justifiably angry, and that the police are often unduly provocative, but do we know how the Battle of Mondawmin in fact began? And what actually happened once it did?

News reports on this incident have been curiously scarce, with the Baltimore Sun devoting only a few sentences of its voluminous riot coverage to the confrontation at Mondawmin. The Sun‘s Scott Dance (with a dozen other regulars listed as contributors) reported:

The confrontation near Mondawmin escalated quickly Smoke filled the air as police responded with shields and a tactical vehicle. Demonstrators pelted officers with rocks, bricks and bottles and assaulted a photojournalist, and officers fired back with tear gas and pepper balls.

The Sun does not describe how this confrontation began—seemingly a key question if this incident sparked the “Riots”. National coverage was even more questionable, with Donna Leinwand Leger of USA Today asserting:

The Mondawmin Mall, where city redevelopment authorities had worked for years to bring Target, Ross Dress for Less, Payless Shoes and other chains, closed early to prepare for the anticipated riots. Still, looters broke into the shops. At Deals, a variety story [sic], looters had broken two windows and made off with merchandise before 30 police with armored cars and riot gear arrived. A police helicopter hovered overhead. By 8 p.m., police had established a presence and chased away the looters.

Al Jazeera did not do much better. The Washington Post published a story on Mondawmin which focused on the “purge” rumor circulating on the internet earlier in the day. Most stories followed the same pattern and based their reporting entirely on official sources.

The only detailed mainstream coverage of the Mondawmin events came from Sam Brodey and Jenna McLaughlin of Mother Jones, who wrote:

According to eyewitnesses in the Mondawmin neighborhood, the police were stopping busses and forcing riders, including many students who were trying to get home, to disembark. Cops shut down the local subway stop. They also blockaded roads near the Mondawmin Mall and Frederick Douglass High School, which is across the street from the mall, and essentially corralled young people in the area. That is, they did not allow the after-school crowd to disperse.

This report, the only one to cite any sources other than police and city officials, corresponds with the evidence as scrutinized by the Eclipse since Monday. Plenty of Frederick Douglass students were picked up by parents earlier in the day, due to concerns about trouble at Mondawmin. Others tried to get home on their own, only to find their path to the buses blocked by a line of heavily armored storm troopers. Mondawmin is one of the biggest transit hubs in the city: a necessary stop in the homeward journies of thousands of students forced by “education reform” to attend schools dispersed across the city. Already this artificial situation requires high school students to congregate here—and where go groups of black high school students, so too go antagonistic police.

More bus routes stop at Mondawmin than at any other station on the West Side.

More bus routes stop at Mondawmin than at any other station on the West Side. (Eleven, plus the subway. Source: MTA transit maps.)

What follows is a preliminary investigation into the events at Mondawmin, based on limited witness testimony, photos, and videos.

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PUBLIC SAFETY ANNOUNCEMENT – Baltimore Bloc #BmoreFerguson Call To Action

 

 

 

PUBLIC SAFETY ANNOUNCEMENT

2526

NOT ONE MORE!

On Tuesday, November 25th AND “West Wednesday,” November 26th, at 6PM; Baltimore Bloc will gather at Baltimore City Hall (100 North Holliday Street) and march in solidarity with the Family of Michael Brown, the People of Ferguson, and all victims of police violence across the nation and around the world. Come early – bring signs – dress warm. The route will be announced when we’re about to start marching.

If you want us to keep you informed with the latest information; drop us your contact information here.

WE ARE DEMANDING:

(1) That all Baltimore Police officers to be equipped with body cameras; the first of which should be those with histories of brutality and misconduct (“Violent Repeat Off(end/ic)ers”) and officers in the Special Enforcement Section (“The Knockers”).

(2) That Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and the City Council support any legislation that is introduced by the West Coalition in the upcoming General Assembly, especially those having to do with the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights and Civilian Review Board.

(3) That the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice investigate the Baltimore Police Department.

#BmoreFerguson

Baltimore Bloc

 

 

 

Addressing the New Plan to Reduce Police Brutality in Baltimore

Like many major metropolitan areas, the city of Baltimore has had a major police brutality problem. The recent police shooting in Ferguson as open the spotlight on the issue across the nation. In Baltimore, police brutality has been an ongoing issue for years. Only recently have officials started to address the problem after many families began protesting the deaths of loved ones that were victims of police brutality. Some of the more visible accounts have included the deaths of Tyrone West, Anthony Anderson and George King. Others have included beatings or attacks like the case of Kollin Truss (Baltimore Sun, 2014). Countless hours of meetings, protests, official letters to call for investigations and the released video from the Kollin Truss case has finally resulted in several visible steps to address the problem. These steps include a possible Department of Justice investigation and a new plan or report to deal with police brutality. Unfortunately, the city has a history of either implementing empty reforms or simply pushing the issue under the proverbial rug. Hopefully there will be real steps taken that ensure that police brutality will be effectively monitored and addressed with real investigations.

S.R.-B. & Batts were not thrilled.

The Mayor and Police Commissioner addressing a forum on policing in Baltimore

What is being touted as a major plan to deal with police brutality, the Police Commissioner Batts and Mayor Rawlings-Blake have produced the report entitled “Preventing Harm”. In the Baltimore Sun article “Baltimore officials offer plan to curb police brutality”, the authors, Luke Broadwater and Mark Puente, describe the report as a 41 page document detailing a number of potential solutions that could be utilized to reduce the incidents of police brutality.   Some of the solutions put forward include a call to increase internal affairs staffing, conduct a study on wearable cameras, utilizing more tasers, changing the current laws that sometimes protect rogue officers and a proposed new citizen’s police academy. While many of these options have potentially positive effects, there are many questions about their effectiveness in implementation.

In many ways this report has a number of fixes that appear good on paper. The problem is that the solutions might not work as effectively as there are promised. For instance, the proposal of utilizing wearable cameras could be a good option. It could bring greater accountability and a more candid view of how police interact with people on the streets. Unfortunately, there could also be several problems with their use.   Would such video recordings be made available to the public? Who would have access to the video recordings? Would civilians be able to request recordings or would they be buried under “ongoing investigations” that seem to go one forever? There is also the issue of privacy and surveillance. Would such recordings be abused or mishandled? These problems would need to be addressed fairly quickly if they were to be implemented effectively.

The case of Tyrone West has generated a great deal of protests over the past year in Baltimore.

Numerous protests over police brutality have brought the issue to the front headlines

While the plan to implementation can be a good step in creating an atmosphere of greater accountability, would all officers wear them? Several proposals have been put forward that limit their use to either new recruits just graduating from the police academy or phasing in their use. There would need to be a full implementation if they were to be utilized fully. Simply creating a lengthy timeframe for implementing such devices could render their use moot.

Another problem is the solution potentially utilizing more numbers of tasers. For some the idea of non-lethal type weapons might appear to be an effective way to reduce police killings. The reality is far different. There are a number of cases including the death of Tyrone West and Kollin Truss where tasers were used as essentially devices of torture. Do we really want to have police officers going around essentially electrocuting residents, even those that are not charged with a crime? Tasers are also potentially deadly, even some people with healthy bodies. In many instances, officers tend to overuse tasers with the belief that they are “safe” or at least leave no marks for potential investigations. Far from reducing incidents of police brutality, tasers could actually increase them. They could also increase the fear factor and divide that the community has for the police as this time.

Beyond these problems, there is also a lack of in-depth review of how current police brutality cases are handled. There is a critical need to reform the current civilian based review board system. According to the article, “Baltimore police review board called irrelevant, ineffective”, the review board is often understaffed with vacancies, has its recommendations ignored by the police and constant complaints about its inefficiencies (Baltimore Sun, 2013).   While the current Mayor and Police Commissioner have taken steps to reform the review the board, there are still some critical changes needed. One is a streamlined process to ensure easier reporting of police related crimes. Another is greater transparency for the general public. Many cases are often kept hidden or secret from the public eyes during review board investigations. Then there are the problems where cases were either ignored or swept under the rug. Even when the review board acts on a case, it doesn’t necessarily bring charges against officers, making it harder for disciplinary actions to be enacted.

Baltimore City Police Cars

A group of police cars can cause fear among the community

A second problem is the lack of action by the state attorney’s office. Even in cases where victims were killed by the police without cause with a great deal of evidence, there is often little effort to prosecute the officers involved. In the case of Anthony Anderson, police officers physically threw the man onto the ground killing him with dozens of onlookers. His death was even ruled a homicide by the coroner’s office. Yet none of the officers were punished. With the case of Tyrone West involving multiple officers beating the man to death over an unwarranted traffic stop, none were ever held accountable. Worse, there were attempts at stonewalling the investigation over his death, delays in performing the autopsy and questions about the overall transparency of the investigation process itself. Essentially the report ignores this problem of a lack of prosecution by the state’s attorney. Even when there is evidence to support the complaint against an officer, there are often little in the way of justice involved.

A third issue is the problem of transparency. While the mayor and police commissioner promise greater accountability, will there be real reforms for transparency? Only in the last year or two have official statistics been opened to the public. These have included reports of police misconduct, legal settlements for victims of police brutality and disciplinary reports for rogue officers.   Unfortunately, there is very little that has been released about past incidents of police brutality, making it harder to discern the real facts about the issue in Baltimore. A full level of transparency would be another good step for helping to address the issue of police brutality as well as helping to re-establish a great trust of the police in the community.

To be fair there are some steps that could be positive changes for the police department. Commissioner Batts would like to reform state level protections that often cover the actions of rogue police officers.   Currently, officers can be suspended with pay during any investigations. Unless they are formally charged with a felony, police officers cannot be dismissed or punished within the police department. Batts would like to see a change in this process and bring greater power to discipline officers within the police department.

Community trust needs to be regained with the city police

Community trust needs to be regained with the city police

Perhaps the biggest positive outcome of the report is the simple fact that city officials are finally addressing the problem of police brutality with real reforms. In numerous times over the city’s history, there has been little real reform to address the problem. Bringing the issue out in public debate, making everyone aware of the problem and hopefully talking about real plans to reform the current system are positive steps in the right direction. The question is whether these steps are enough. In some ways they may not be with further actions needed for change.

Perhaps on a deeper level, there is a foundation issue that is not always talked about. That is the issue of trust between the police and the community.   Part of this problem comes from historic problems of abuse, misconduct as well as racial profiling. There is also the loss of trust that occurred with the implementation of O’Malley’s “Zero tolerance” which resulted in thousands of arrests for crimes that were either dismissed or ultimately considered trivial. This environment, coupled a history of police misconduct, helped to create the current environment where there is little trust with the city police. While Mayor Rawlings-Blake has stated her intentions to change this issue of trust, it will take further actions to do so.

In the end, reducing the incidents of police brutality may take more than what was detailed in the steps revealed in the “Reduce Harm” report produced by Police Commissioner Batts. It’s going to take both concrete actions as well as ongoing efforts to help change how police brutality is handled in the city. Only by making investigations more transparent, changing how officers are disciplined and implementing effective public review polices can the problem start to be addressed. While technological aids such as wearable cameras can be beneficial, they are not necessarily the ultimate answer. There is no quick fix to the problem. Our city requires an ongoing effort that will take years if properly implemented. Only time will tell if the city can rise to the challenge and ensure a proper policing system that does not victimize its own citizens.

The Ghost of Tyrone West: A Year in the Death

The evening of July 18, 2014 marks the one year anniversary of the beating death of Tyrone West.  On that day at 6:30, the West Family will gather at the scene where Tyrone was killed for a memorial service. There will be a prayer; words shared by the West Family and members of the community—even witnesses who have come forth as well as those who have yet to do so.

Since Tyrone’s untimely death, the West Family has waged an unyielding fight for justice. Every Wednesday, the West Family has mobilized at various locations around the city. These manifestations have become known as #WestWednesday’s, and as of today, there have been over 50, which target the various institutions involved in Tyrone’s death.

To learn more about the movement against police brutality, and how to get involved, join the Baltimore Public Safety Collective at Red Emma’s every Saturday at 2:30 pm… and keep your ears and eyes open for the next #WestWednesday.

On the evening of July 18, 2013, Tyrone West was driving a friend home when an unmarked police vehicle pulled them over for an alleged traffic violation. According to witnesses, officers immediately opened the vehicle and dragged Tyrone out by his dreadlocks, beginning to beat, mace, and taze him. In audio of the two officers calling for back-up, Tyrone’s voice can be heard in the background calling for help, a plea witnesses heard him make too.

By the end of the attack, 10+ Baltimore Police and a Morgan State University officer stood over Tyrone’s lifeless body. None of these officers involved in Tyrone’s death were suspended by the Baltimore Police Department, nor were any prosecuted by the State’s Attorney’s Office, and thus remain on active duty today. The Baltimore Police denied forcibly removing Tyrone from the vehicle. Instead, they said they had politely asked Tyrone and the passenger if they could search the vehicle, to which they allegedly consented to. It was when they attempted to search Tyrone, Police say, that he allegedly attacked the officers. The Police claim they discovered a gram of cocaine in a field Tyrone had ran across in an attempt to flee from them. However, they also said they found that gram in 14 different bags, raising questions that remain unanswered about how and why one gram of cocaine would be divided in 14 bags.

The West Family reject the version of events as told by the Baltimore Police. The West Family argue that the two officers that initially pulled Tyrone over: Nicholas David Chapman and Jorge Bernardez-Ruiz, are “Violent Repeat Offendicers,” and should have already been suspended for their role in the beating of Abdul Salaam, 17 days prior to the beating death of Tyrone. Abdul, who lives only a couple blocks away, was also pulled over for an alleged traffic violation and forcibly removed from his vehicle, like Tyrone had been. The officers beat Abdul in his driveway in front of his three year old son, and then threatened to take him, because he wasn’t wearing his seat-belt. All charges were eventually dropped. A complaint was immediately filed with internal affairs, however they have yet to respond or return any of Abdul’s property.

The West Family was not able to see Tyrone’s body for over 5 days. According to the autopsy report, the Medical Examiner’s Office had completed the autopsy within 24 hours of Tyrone’s death, but it took 145 days before the State’s Attorney’s Office would release a preliminary report, which claimed that Tyrone had “died of Cardiac Arrhythmia due to Cardiac Conduction System Abnormality complicated by Dehydration during police restraint.” However, the Medical Examiner’s Office still ruled that cause of death “could not be determined.”

The West Family approached Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake in person on four different occasions demanding accountability, before she finally came out on December 06, 2013 (140 days later) with a public letter addressed to State’s Attorney Gregg Bernstein, asking him to release the autopsy report as “expeditiously as possible.” Both, the letter by the Mayor and release of the preliminary autopsy report were on the eve of the Baltimore City Council’s Public Safety Committee hearing on December 12, 2013, which the West Family had forced after confronting Councilman Bill Henry in City Hall back in October.  However the State’s Attorney’s Office and Medical Examiner’s Office abstained from attending the hearing, and the Baltimore Police Department excused themselves after their 10 minute presentation that did not answer any questions about the case.

Six days before Christmas, on December 19, 2014, State’s Attorney Gregg Bernstein finally announced that he would not prosecute any of the officers involved in the beating death of Tyrone. When the West Family attempted to attend the press conference, they were threatened with arrest (at 15:30) by Baltimore Police Detectives who guarded Bernstein’s office.

Throughout the entire investigation, the name of one of the officers involved in the case, Morgan State University officer David Lewis, was never identified. It was only until after the criminal investigation was over, and the West Family was able to obtain the FOIA file, that they discovered his identity, and that Lewis had been the officer that sat on Tyrone’s back as he took his last breath.

After discovering his name, several #WestWednesday’s were concentrated on Morgan State University, warning students about a Killer Cop on their campus. Once the West Family obtained photos of some of the officers did they learn that in fact they had come face to face with the Killer Cop while raising awareness on campus. Lewis is also the only officer that refused to participate in the criminal investigation by the State’s Attorney’s Office. The two initiating officers, Chapman and Ruiz, were not interviewed by the State’s Attorney’s Office until October 28, 2013, three months after the incident had occurred. Most of the officers involved were interviewed between October and December.

It wasn’t until the conclusion of the criminal investigation by the State’s Attorney’s Office that the Baltimore Police Department’s Office of Internal Affairs began their administrative investigation. None of the officers were disciplined as a result of the administrative investigation. Baltimore Police have not made the details of the investigation available to the public.

Following the criminal and administrative investigations is what the Mayor and Police Commissioner Anthony Batts have been calling an “independent review board,” which will review the incident and make recommendations (if any) to the Police Commissioner for consideration. The members of the “independent” review board are appointed by the Baltimore Police’s Office of Internal Affairs; in previous cases, such as the in-custody killing of Anthony Anderson, members of the review board held positions in other police departments and state’s attorney’s offices around Maryland.

As of today, the “independent review board” still has not concluded their review.

The Baltimore Civilian Review Board did not play a role in any investigation in the West case because they do not have the authority to investigate deadly use of force incidents. The Baltimore Police recently announced their intention to allow them to do so in the future, however there are many other issues that continue to withhold the Civilian Review Board from possessing any meaningful power.

The West Family continues to pursue an investigation by the United States Department of Justice as they have sought since the beginning.

 

sk○lA↯tika

2014 Maryland Law Enforcement “Use of Force” Data

An active list of 2014 law enforcement use of force data in Maryland — Collected by the Baltimore Public Safety Collective

Green dates are use of force incidents by the Baltimore Police Department that have been reported. Yellow dates are use of force incidents by other law enforcement agencies besides the Baltimore Police. Red dates are use of force incidents by the Baltimore Police that haven't been reported publicly.   Green names are the victims in use of force incidents that have not been identified. Black names are the victims that were wounded in use of force incidents. Red names are the victims that were killed in the use of force incidents   Green LEO-involved names are the officers that have not been identified. Black LEO-involved names are the officers that have not been charged by the State's Attorney's Office or disciplined by the Baltimore Police Department. Red LEO-involved names are the officers that have been criminally charged by the State's Attorney's Office.   The (SES) besides BPD refers to the "Special Enforcement Section" unit of the Baltimore Police Department, formerly officially known as the "Violent Crimes Impact Section" and most commonly known as "The Knockers"

Green dates are use of force incidents by the Baltimore Police Department that have been reported. Yellow dates are use of force incidents by other law enforcement agencies besides the Baltimore Police. Red dates are use of force incidents by the Baltimore Police that haven’t been reported publicly. Green names are the victims in use of force incidents that have not been identified. Black names are the victims that were wounded in use of force incidents. Red names are the victims that were killed in the use of force incidents Green LEO-involved names are the officers that have not been identified. Black LEO-involved names are the officers that have not been charged by the State’s Attorney’s Office or disciplined by the Baltimore Police Department. Red LEO-involved names are the officers that have been criminally charged by the State’s Attorney’s Office. The (SES) besides BPD refers to the “Special Enforcement Section” unit of the Baltimore Police Department, formerly officially known as the “Violent Crimes Impact Section” and most commonly known as “The Knockers”

Now compare with data provided by the Baltimore Police Department:

policereports

 

“FIT Investigations” were made public on June 1, 2014 on the Baltimore Police Department website. It was part of the long anticipated reforms that were recommended according to: “Public Safety in the City of Baltimore: A Strategic Plan for Improvement” a quarter million dollar bill for taxpayers that is supposed to “provide guidance for the future, setting forth the vision for policing Baltimore, identification of the primary strengths of the department that must be reinforced and protected, the areas for improvement, and the implementation strategy for moving forward with vigor and commitment.”  It was completed in November 2013 and went into effect January 2014.

According to the BPD website:

“To maintain organizational transparency, improve performance and increase accountability, the Baltimore Police Department’s Office of Internal Oversight (OIO) is tasked with responding, investigating and reporting police categorical use of force incidents.  OIO will update this site regularly with data related to categorical use of force incidents, which is defined as actions taken by a Baltimore police officer that may result in serious physical injury or death.”

However if you take a closer look, you will notice the Baltimore Police have failed to report numerous incidents that the Baltimore Public Safety Collective have recorded, and in some cases neither has the Baltimore Sun.

February 26 – While off-duty, a 27 year old Baltimore Police officer, Alec Taylor, had strangled to death his girlfriends 7 month puppy after it had defecated on the carpet.

April 26* – 16 year old Taekwon Ford (also known as “Pug” in the documentary “12 O’clock Boys“) was knocked off his dirtbike by a Baltimore Police officer in his vehicle, and then tased. The officer involved has not been identified.

May 19* – An unidentified Baltimore Police officer shot two pitbulls, wounding one and killing the other, after they bit at an 11 year old boy.

June 13 – A steer that escaped the slaughterhouse was shot and killed by an unidentified officer.

June 14 – After Officer Thomas Schmitt had captured a 7 year old Shar-Pei that had gotten loose from the yard, partner Jeffrey Bolger slit the dogs throat–instead of simply returning Nala to her owner. The killing was reported 5 days after it had occurred.

June 15 – Officer Dean McFadden drove upon what he perceived as a shoot-out between two men, so he shot and killed one, Eric Harris (30),  and let the other escape. Two days later, Baltimore Police announce that the gun Harris was allegedly in possession of was in fact a replica. Initially it was reported that: “Detectives found a gun on the man who was shot and bullet casings from both men’s guns on the street, police said.” but two days later it was announced that Harris in fact had a “true-to-life replica gun.” Which makes us wonder… because replicas fire blanks.

June 26* – An unidentified Baltimore Police officer shot and wounded a dog. The incident was the second “police-involved shooting” of a dog that went unreported by both the Baltimore Police and Baltimore Sun.

(*) next to the date indicates that the Baltimore Sun did not report the incident. 

Media Coverage

“Media Coverage”

west wednesday - MEDIA COVERAGE

Family & Friends of Tyrone West demonstrate their feelings about Fox 45 News.

Was Tyrone West initially pulled over for a “traffic stop” or a “drug stop?” What was the actual cause of his death? Why couldn’t ten officers arrest him safely? If they really found cocaine on his person, why didn’t they follow normal procedures for drug confiscation? Why such a big delay in taking him to the hospital? TV news networks and the Baltimore Sun have refused to ask these difficult questions, choosing instead to report what the authorities tell them.

The Family of Tyrone West will be at Kitmore & Kelway on the one year anniversary of the murder. Will TV news be there? Will you?

We cannot trust mainstream news or police to give us good information about what’s happening in our city. Thus we are taking media into our own hands.

Watch: “A Year in the Death of Tyrone West”

A new witness to the Tyrone West murder has released new testimony. An excerpt:

I was sitting in my living room The evening of July 18th when I heard police sirens . I looked out my window and saw three vehicles racing down the street and I knew something bad was happening. I called upstairs to my wife and then opened my door, looking down the street to my left (I live in the 1300 Kitmore) Allt he way down at Kelway I saw what appeared to be about ten police officers circling in a frenzy. My wife and I thought someone had committed a robbery or that there was a shooting. Before long I see them place a large handcuffed man on his face. Then something happened and my wife became upset because they turned the man on his back and started cpr. We had no idea what happened until the next day. Here is what bothered us the most…to this day. We kept asking each other why did it take so long for the ambulance and here’s the incredible part that infuriated us….The ambulance sat there for what seemed forever. “Why aren’t they taking him to Good Sam” my wife asked as the minutes ticked and ticked by. Good Sam is 5 or 6 blocks away and common sense tells you that in a cpr situation you continue cpr and get the patient to the professionals asap!!!! They didn’t! My computer has a grainy photo of the crime scene…and it was a crime to leave him there that long!

Read this information, share it around, and, most importantly, think critically about what you read and see!

“Below the Fold” — more people are speaking up about inconsistency and bias in local media coverage.

 

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Baltimore Public Safety Collective Seeks Answers from Police Commissioner

Below is the text of a letter that members of the Baltimore Public Safety Collective will deliver to Commissioner Batts at the April 10 BPD/Mayoral town hall, to be held at the American Brewery building, 1701 N. Gay Street, at 7 p.m.  The Eclipse will document any response (or non-response) received by the Collective and post a wrap-up of tonight’s and any future town hall.


 

Dear Commissioner Batts:

We are a collective of Baltimoreans formed out of great concern for the safety of the residents of and visitors to our city, particularly those who have been or are at risk of becoming victims of violence at the hands of the Baltimore Police Department.  We were pleased to learn that you and the Department will be holding town halls to address the serious problem of violence in Baltimore and of your intent to engage the community in making the city safer.

As you know, some of the most serious recent violent acts have been committed by your officers.  We share your concern about street gangs; however, while most of us and most Baltimoreans in general will have little or no interaction with gang members, nearly everyone in the City will at some time or another encounter police officers.  Therefore it is critical that the Department and the community immediately identify and work to eliminate the causes of officers’ violent behavior.

While we plan to do our part by continuing to attend the town halls, we thought it would be appropriate to lay out our questions in writing below, so that we do not take up inordinate amounts of speaking time at these district-specific meetings that should be used by those living in each district to address their neighborhoods’ discrete concerns.

  • Please provide or instruct us on where to obtain a comprehensive list of victims killed or injured in police shootings and beatings in Baltimore City since 2004.
  • You have publicly stated that you do not have the authority to suspend officers.  Who does have this authority?
  • How can citizens access information about and track the progress of internal BPD investigations and disciplinary procedures?
  • How many officers are currently out on suspension or are on some type of restricted duty?
  • You have said in recent Twitter town halls that only 30% of BPD officers live in Baltimore City.  Of the 30%, how many live in the districts to which they are assigned?  Beyond directing employees to state homeownership incentives, what is the Department’s plan to increase the percentage of City residents on its payroll?  Do you and other high-ranking Department officials live inside the City?  How many of 2014’s police-involved shootings have been committed by non-resident officers?
  • What is the Department’s explanation for the high number of police-involved shootings so far this calendar year?
  • What is the expected timeline for the hiring of a permanent academy director?  Will that person be give a mandate to eliminate or decrease violence committed by officers?

We would appreciate a written response to this letter by April 30, 2014.  We look forward to your response and thank you in advance for your cooperation as we address the crisis of police violence in Baltimore.