Baltimoreans should be reminded that regardless of who is chosen to lead the Baltimore City Police Department it will ultimately be the level of engagement, oversight and vigilance from citizens that will determine policy, procedure and results affecting crime and violence in our community.
As Michael Harrison assumes control of policing in Baltimore, the deck is stacked in his favor to succeed thanks to a secret weapon resulting from the kind of responsible civic engagement espoused by those of us who believe selecting strong municipal leaders through the power of the vote is a direct expression of citizen decision-making in local government affairs.
After the Freddie Gray debacle in 2015, Baltimore citizens embraced a bold young lawyer-activist, wife and mother who stepped forward demonstrating bold leadership, moral courage and stalwart determination as a novice candidate for Baltimore City States Attorney.
Marilyn Mosby challenged the status quo and faced down entrenched political interests, including the powerful Baltimore police union, the Fraternal Order of Police, who the Obama Department of Justice would determine was representing one of the most corrupt, racist and brutal police departments in the U.S. evidenced by their reluctant agreement to enjoin a consent decree acknowledging unjustified, unconstitutional conduct against Baltimore citizens.
Her epic indictment and prosecution of the officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray notwithstanding, Mosby quietly set about transforming the City States Attorney’s office from the rubber stamp of a police department that victimized African American citizens on par with the victimization one might expect on Baltimore’s most violent streets, to a community resource that unabashedly advocates for victims and witnesses, and refuses to further punish over policed citizens criminalized by race-based targeted arrests and harassment.
The biggest winners from Marilyn Mosby’s brand of justice are obviously Baltimore taxpayers. However, Mosby’s contribution to the city, including substantial savings of money and manpower resulting from her bold policy decisions and administrative innovation, must not be lost on City Hall. Moreover, new police commissioner, Michael Harrison, is the latest recipient of Marilyn Mosby’s program of fair play as she equitably approaches issues of crime and punishment in Baltimore.
Mosby’s recent decision to suspend prosecution of citizens for minor Cannabis possession will save the city millions of dollars from the combination of redirected police activity and administration, housing and feeding jailed suspects, and prosecuting cases. Besides, studies have shown that Baltimore marijuana busts are racially motivated, demonstrating Mosby’s respect for due process and equal justice by refusing to adjudicate.
Despite former governor Martin O’Malley’s decriminalization of pot in 2014, arrests for possession in Baltimore have increased dramatically— for African Americans only— going from 44 in 2015 to 429 in 2017. Incarceration rates were more than 96 percent African American and low income, which is no surprise since police targeted those areas, while Baltimore’s poorest majority-Caucasian neighborhood experienced fewer than 50 cannabis arrests.
Mosby’s policy of forgoing marijuana arrests allows the incoming police commissioner to commit more law enforcement resources to combat 300 plus murders per year and tens of thousands of violent crimes annually, freeing up the court system to focus on prosecuting violent offenders.
Marilyn Mosby has also introduced the YOU’RE NOT ALONE. TOGETHER WE’RE STRONGER campaign through her office’s Victim & Witness Services Unit. This program offers support and a safe haven for citizens, which encourages their participation to help take dangerous criminals off the streets and bring them to justice.
YOU’RE NOT ALONE can prove to be an effective deterrent to the Stop Snitchin’ culture that has hindered police efforts to investigate and apprehend Baltimore’s most notorious lawbreakers for years. Again, Harrison is the beneficiary of a valuable tool from Mosby that can help him prevail in his mission to provide a safer environment and better quality of life for Baltimoreans by encouraging closer cooperation and trust with the community at-large.
Michael Harrison’s temperament and experience, and Marilyn Mosby’s tenacity and commitment, can produce a formidable team to reduce violent crime in Baltimore.
Remember Baltimore, you chose Marilyn Mosby and have embraced and supported her. The wonderful job she does is a dividend of your good citizenship. Continuing to wisely vote-in honest, capable leaders to city government like the City States Attorney will inevitably transform Baltimore to the world-class metropolis it could be.
West Baltimore native, Regi Taylor is a married father of four. He is an artist, writer and media professional specializing in political history.