Bal­ti­more must not re­lin­quish its streets

Baltimore Sun - - COMMENTARY - By Alan Walden Alan Walden is the Repub­li­can nom­i­nee for mayor. His email is walden­for­

Last week, the FBI re­ported that mur­ders were up by 10 per­cent in 2015 over the year be­fore, and that vi­o­lent crime rose by 4 per­cent. In Bal­ti­more, the num­ber of homi­cides has risen to 235 al­ready this year, com­pared with 197 in all of 2011. In Chicago, well over 3,000 peo­ple have been shot in 2016, and the num­ber of homi­cides has risen above 500 — more than any year there since the early 2000s. Other cities — in­clud­ing Detroit, New Or­leans and St. Louis — are also suf­fer­ing and, as the vi­o­lence rises, an in­creas­ing num­ber of shoot­ings and mur­ders are go­ing un­solved.

The time has come for the po­lice de­part­ments of ma­jor cities to pool their re­sources in or­der to deal with the ris­ing wave of vi­o­lent crime now sweep­ing through many ur­ban cen­ters. Top law en­force­ment of­fi­cials should gather in Bal­ti­more to dis­cuss what works and what doesn’t. The ma­jor el­e­ments of the prob­lem are: Gangs who rule the streets and stage turf bat­tles to hold their ground;

A sub­cul­ture of mind­less vi­o­lence that leads to of­ten deadly con­fronta­tions over even the most mi­nor of is­sues;

A lack of trust and in­ter­ac­tion be­tween po­lice and the pub­lic they are sworn to serve and pro­tect;

And an un­will­ing­ness within the gen- eral pop­u­la­tion to con­tact the proper au­thor­i­ties be­cause of a per­va­sive fear of ret­ri­bu­tion.

The U.S. Depart­ment of Jus­tice and Bal­ti­more po­lice agreed to ne­go­ti­ate courten­force­able re­forms af­ter a re­port sharply crit­i­cized of­fi­cers for us­ing ex­ces­sive force and rou­tinely dis­crim­i­nat­ing against blacks. Vanita Gupta, head of the Civil Rights Divi­sion, said dur­ing a news con­fer­ence in the com­pany of the in­cum­bent mayor and po­lice com­mis­sioner, “These vi­o­la­tions have deeply eroded the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the po­lice and com­mu­nity it serves.”

But while there is no doubt that po­lice pro­ce­dures and tac­tics should be re­fined and en­forced, it isn’t the po­lice who are en­gaged in the shoot­ing and the killing. In Chicago, it has been de­ter­mined that al­most all the vic­tims and per­pe­tra­tors were and are young black males, and the data show that the same pat­tern ex­ists here in Bal­ti­more and in other cities where the deadly vi­o­lence has spiked.

I was re­minded re­cently by a for­mer col­league, the wife of a re­tired Bal­ti­more po­lice of­fi­cer, that the Black Lives Mat­ter move­ment was ac­tu­ally born not in Fer­gu­son, Mo., two years ago, but here in Bal­ti­more back in 1985. It was then that Rep. Par­ren Mitchell of Bal­ti­more ob­served, “Us killing us equals geno­cide.” A few years later, then-Mayor Kurt Schmoke ap­pealed to Bal­ti­more­ans to work with po­lice and take back the streets. But the car­nage goes on, as the per­pe­tra­tors do their worst and then are al­lowed to “hide in plain sight” by a pop­u­lace too fright­ened, too beaten down, too timid to give any­thing more than lip service to their de­sire to be free of the dan­ger that stalks them day and night.

It is im­per­a­tive that the pub­lic at large get past its per­cep­tion that po­lice are an “oc­cu­py­ing army.” They are the sworn guardians of the streets; their job is to pre­serve and pro­tect. And while it may be well-in­tended, the relentless clamor for more over­sight of the Bal­ti­more Po­lice Depart­ment by com­mit­tees and civil­ian re­view boards will solve noth­ing un­less and un­til the peo­ple rise up and say, “These are our streets, these are our homes and we won’t stand for this any longer!” And we must al­low po­lice to do their jobs, even as we in­sist that they obey the law.

In Chicago, the pres­i­dent of the po­lice union re­cently lamented, “We­have lost the streets.”

He was wrong. You can’t lose any­thing un­less you give up. And that must not hap­pen in Bal­ti­more.

Con­gress­man Mitchell was al­most right when he pro­claimed that “us killing us equals geno­cide.” It is, in fact, frat­ri­cide which is, ar­guably, even worse.

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