Martin O’Malley: Rebuilding the American Dream, Like He Rebuilt Baltimore

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 were making mass arrests, they certainly didn’t prioritize arresting rapists. In 2010 the Baltimore Sun reported that police would aggressive 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.

Remember Freddie Gray. Tyrone West. George V. King. Officer William Torbit Jr.

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Maryland Police Reform: More Than Prosecuting Freddie Gray’s Killers

In the aftermath of the April protests, the Maryland General Assembly created the Public Safety and Policing Workgroup. The work group has been meeting since June, and the theme seems to be disconnect between government and people — whether it’s cops and citizens or delegates and constituents.

The MGA’s take place in Annapolis, MD – over 30 miles from Sandtown-Winchester. It’s a 40 minute drive or 2-3 hours on the extremely limited public transit that connect the two regions. During the first meeting, I heard some lip service about having meetings in different regions of the state, but the published schedule has always shown the meetings will all be in Annapolis.

The General Assembly’s reform group is composed entirely of lawmakers — a decision that, in my opinion, severely limits their capability of understanding of what’s going on. Senator Catherine Pugh responded to criticism that the group is made up entirely of lawmakers by saying, “this is not a commission. This is legislators looking at potential legislation we can put in place.” If a commission is what it takes for more citizen involvement, then maybe that’s exactly what the group should have been. 

During the course of the MGA’s dog and pony show, I have attended town hall meetings in Baltimore — for the death of Tyrone West, for the investigation the DOJ is conducting in the city. The faces I see at these meetings are not the same faces I see at the General Assembly. Where are these lawmakers who have been tasked with police reform? For reasons that cannot be explained, Delegate Jill Carter was left off the roster — yet she is the most active on the topic of reform. Delegate Carter has spent weekends running meetings that introduce citizens to the DOJ members tasked with auditing Baltimore. She is respected and recognized among those that most need to get their stories heard…yet she was not offered a spot in the group. Without her presence, it is hard for me take the work group seriously. 

Maryland is home to one of the most extreme Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights; it has a lot of provisions that protect cops when perhaps they shouldn’t be protected. For instance, the hearing board that determines if action should be taken against an officer is composed of fellow officers. One police representative informed us that police work is highly specialized and cops are highly trained. Because of this, the LEOBOR provision that police should be the ones to judge other police is acceptable. “Who should judge us? Plumbers? Electricians?” I guess his highly specialized training didn’t cover what a jury is.

During another police Q&A session, police from all over the state explained their hiring practices and requirements. In all jurisdictions, using marijuana more than five times over the age of 21 permanently disqualifies someone for police service. One delegate asked a young representative from the Maryland State Police if this was practical; the police say they would prefer to have college graduates on the force, and marijuana has been decriminalized in Maryland. The officer replied that “these disqualifying factors are disqualifying factors for good reason….they need to understand their actions do have consequences.” There you have it – the mindset is so strong in the police force that the public electing to decriminalize an activity cannot make the cops change their minds.

I saw a lot of people express confusion about the protests that happened last week in front of the courthouse as we waited to see what if Judge Williams would dismiss the charges against the officers who killed Freddie Gray. “Aren’t they getting what they want?” people asked. Well, yes and no. We have a very long way to go before we’re getting what we want — this is bigger than one case. As we move toward Thursday, understand we are worried about more than a change of venue. We’re worried about the system that has been put in place to “fix” the problems.

I guess as long as the MD State Troopers are giving out recruitment brochures when you're pulled over, we have problems.
I guess as long as the MD State Troopers are giving out recruitment brochures when you’re pulled over, we have problems.

Take Flight

I know I’ve been quiet lately, but it’s only because there has been a ton of work to do. I’ve been going to committee meetings for police accountability in Annapolis, Baltimore, Fairfax County; I’ve been reading and researching and planning out what the next step is. One really awesome thing I’ve done during my writing absence was go with my friends to film their music video in Baltimore. My friend Cory has been protesting with me (and even came and stood by thecamera during my CNN interview to support me!), and he was inspired to create this video. My shirt is from Bmore Love, and all proceeds from their shirts go to Boys & Girls Club of Metropolitan Baltimore. Video by Dexter Jason Delfin Visuals.

Ferguson Police Department: Probably a Bunch of Awesome Guys

If you search “Ferguson” in Google news, you’ll see journalists taking back the negative things they said about the FPD, numerous comparisons of Ferguson to Benghazi, and now an officer who says the stress of Ferguson protests caused him to drive drunk. What you won’t see much of is discussion of the DOJ report on the Ferguson Police Department.  To be fair, I found that the CIA torture report was an easier to get through (though much longer) read. The 105 page PDF took me an unusually long time to get through, but now that I have read it…well, I wish I could say it was shocking. It’s definitely some fucked up shit.

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The FPD created  an environment in which the sole purpose of the police force was to make money for the city. If that sounds reasonable to you, please recall the purpose of the police is to protect and serve the citizens, not to rob your of your rights via your wallet. How does a $571 fine for tall grass or a $302 fine for manner of walking sound? To me, it sounds fucking absurd. To the FPD? Reasonable! Of course, I guess absurd crimes deserve absurd fines — after all, what is manner of walking? Since 95% of the people arrested for it were black, one can assume it’s for being black while walking.

In a city with a per capita income of $21,000, it doesn’t take a Mensa scholar to realize that forcing citizens to pay $571 for having weeds in the yard might be an impossible task. Fortunately, the city found a way to fix that: you can be arrested for not paying your fine in full and on time — many times people are given court dates within a week, so hopefully everyone in Ferguson just stockpiles all their extra pennies in case the police decide to fuck with them. Of course, police often incorrectly write the court dates or times on the citations, so even if you do have the money to pay…you might still get a warrant! Pretty messed up, huh?

But wait! There’s more! Let’s imagine you’ve been given a ridiculously high fine and you want to pay it, but you can’t afford to pay it all at once. So you send the court $20 or $50, with a letter explaining why.  Joke’s on you! Ferguson wants its money, and it wants its money NOW! The court has repeatedly rejected partial payments from citizens, claiming it can’t process them. Nothing says “we care about protecting the people we serve” like locking away old ladies for not mowing their lawns!

Oh, hold on! I’m wrong. I know what makes it clear you care about the citizens you serve: fuckin tasing them for no reason!

Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 6.05.44 PMThe report repeatedly drives home the fact that the FPD uses their ECWs (Electronic Control Weapons) as the only option. While other police are trained to diffuse situations, the FPD fires their ECWs first and worries about consequences later — oh, wait. Just kidding. They don’t worry about the consequences, because there is no accountability. Almost no one bothers to fill out the reports when an ECW is used, and if they do it’s so poorly done they might as well not. Keep in mind there’s an easy way to track whether or not you fired your ECW: you have to replace the cartridge.

But it’s okay. I’m sure if the DOJ investigated other police departments, they’d be golden. I’m sure this is a one off situation that isn’t deserving of national attention. Those crazy race and class baiters should be ashamed of themselves!

Ah, yes. Totally reasonable.

SHOCKING NEWS: Jarrett Maupin, Untrained Civilian, Acts Like Untrained Civilian

This story of Jarrett Maupin going from activist to the other side has so many flaws I don’t even know where to start. I’m going to try, and if anyone has any answers…please, send them my way. I plan to write on this more in depth, but having just seen the footage back to back with the extended Tamir Rice video I’m way too angry to be articulate.

  • Can someone explain to me what the fuck an untrained person’s reaction to a police officer’s job has to do with anything? We don’t know if Maupin has ever even touched a gun before. If we’re taking cops and dumping them on the street with zero training, we have a problem.
  • If this half brained exercise makes anything resembling a point, it is only in an identical situation. Cops need to be held accountable for their actions and MANY of the fuck ups are not shooting someone running straight at you. Was the 2 year old who got hit by a flashbang grenade scary?
  • Maybe a better study would be putting a protestor next to the lifeless body of a 12 year old, giving him some handcuffs, and seeing if he handcuffs the child’s 14 year old sister for running over to her brother. Spoiler alert: most people probably fucking choose to not arrest sister.
  • Why is asking for accountability so scary? What do so many people have to hide? Keep on keepin on, NYPD.

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