I feel like I’ve been seeing way too much of Martin O’Malley lately. From being a guest on The Daily Show to playing the guitar on The View, O’Malley seems to not be deterred by his approval ratings. To the average person who only watches the debates and listens to the current soundbites, O’Malley sounds like a good candidate for Clinton’s cabinet (or whatever he’s aiming for at this point). I’ve seen many liberal leaning friends and news sources (especially those who consider police reform a primary issue) express their interest in O’Malley. His criminal justice reform plan even lists “build[ing] trust in law enforcement” as a top priority.
But the thing is, in Maryland we all know the truth about O’Malley.
How can the mayor that ordered mass arrests of innocent people and manipulated crime statistics possibly be the President we trust to understand and implement community policing?
How can the mayor who ruined community and police relations possibly be the President (or whatever position he’s going for) we trust to rebuild faith in the police force?
Back in April, I watched Martin O’Malley stop by West Baltimore for a photo op. Starting at the burned down CVS, he slowly made his way down Penn, shaking hands and smiling with the crowd that had gathered to protest the death of Freddie Gray. I’m sure he thought it was a great idea for him to do before announcing that he was running for President — until an angry protestor on a motorcycle started following him. “YOU DID THIS! YOU KILLED FREDDIE GRAY!” the man yelled. O’Malley quickly picked up his pace and escaped into the black SUV waiting for him at the end of the block.
He wasn’t wrong.
Nothing O’Malley has ever done shows he is capable of facilitating a community oriented policing program, or that he even knows what community policing is.
O’Malley now claims that he wants to make community policing a priority — though Baltimore didn’t get its Community Partnership Division until after O’Malley was long gone from Baltimore. O’Malley’s Baltimore focused on manufactured statistics and graphs, not human compassion or an understanding of how to treat the root causes of crime. Numbers get you noticed by White House, after all.
During the first Democratic debate, O’Malley assured us that in his Baltimore, arrests and crime fell. He was half right — crime did fall in Baltimore, just like it did nationwide. But I don’t really know why he claimed arrests fell; in 2005 there were over 100,00 arrests in a city of roughly 600,000 people. How could crime possibly be falling if the police saw fit to arrest almost 1/6 of the city’s population? Under O’Malley the blanket policy of the BPD appeared to be “arrest everyone — or else.” People were not arrested for committing crimes, they were arrested and held for up to 54 hours with no charges ever filed. When people were assigned bail, they usually couldn’t pay it and would spend a month or two in jail until their cases would be dismissed. In 2006 the ACLU and NAACP filed a lawsuit against O’Malley for this practice. Spoiler alert: the city settled.
While O’Malley’s BPD was making mass arrests, they certainly didn’t prioritize arresting rapists. In 2010 the Baltimore Sun reported that police would aggressively question rape victims, causing 30% of victims to change their accusation to “unfounded” — which was five times the national average. On paper, the amount of rapes in Baltimore declined 80% versus the national average of 8%; the city didn’t even go for a believable, gradual decrease.
Not to mention, O’Malley did his best to expedite the school to prison pipeline until political opposition was just too much to handle.
When you see Martin O’Malley talking on TV, please don’t let him blind you with charming jokes about the NRA or the honest good he did here with immigration and gay marriage.
Instead, please remember his first legacy — the city of Baltimore.