When you can’t trust the police…

Prologue: In a city where the tally of unsolved murders reach the triple digits each year, it is still surprising when a homicide detective’s murder becomes a cold case in Baltimore City.

The November 2017 broad daylight shooting death of detective Sean Suiter in a residential neighborhood has reached its third anniversary. The one sketchy suspect description was quickly recanted by the one eyewitness (also a detective).

With each passing year, it looks more probable (and not just possible) that Suiter was lured to Bennett Place, trapped in the alley, put down like a dog in the street, and the crime scene (held by police for an abnormally extended time period) was staged to look like a suicide.

A bombshell press conference by Suiter’s grieving family broke through the typical blue wall of silence in May 2019 when they claimed that the 39-year old’s murder was an inside job. This occurred on the heels of the department pledging to investigate itself when it brought in a panel called the “Independent Review Board” (IRB) to review their casefiles and in their 2018 report arrived at a manner of death different that the coroner (suicide versus homicide).

To be clear, the Suiter family believes Baltimore police was involved in the murder of one of their own, and they are not alone.

Cops controlled the narrative and the neighborhood

Controlling the narrative about the possibility of Suiter being shot with his own service weapon that allegedly was found under his body was equally as important as controlling movement in and around the crime scene around the clock for days on end.

A sober look at the case reveals much of what local media outlets have “reported” is merely a regurgitation of Baltimore Police spin. Consider the source: maybe, just maybe, the department could be frantically covering up a murder, making it prudent for professional journalists to take what law enforcement said (and probably more important what they haven’t said) with a healthy dose of skepticism.

Coverage of the Sean Suiter homicide began with widely reported misinformation that he was shot as he knocked on doors following up on a year old triple murder in the west Baltimore community of Harlem Park. The public later learned that he was likely confronted in the alley (and not the lot) and that he was assisting another junior homicide detective (David Bomenka) with his murder case that happened just weeks prior.

Unfounded Accusation #1: Suiter was shot with his own gun.

Truth: That is pure speculation on four crucial fronts:

  1. BPD (poorly) reenacted the “discovery” of the bullet that they said killed him. This happened in front of cameras by members of the homicide unit after the crime scene unit had released the area coming up empty after digging in the exact same spot looking for other missing bullets. NOTE: The “evidence” was too damaged to run ballistics tests to try and determine if Suiter’s gun fired that bullet. All that can be proven is that the bullet dramatically “discovered” at the scene is the same type that is used by BPD. It is not hyperbole to state that Baltimore Police have made an artform out of planting evidence.
Screengrab of a local television station’s cameras that captured BPD “discovery” of the bullet that killed Det. Sean Suiter just after ending the weeklong lockdown “securing the crime scene” ie media blackout – only to have reporters camera’s booted out again.

2. Suiter’s gun has a serial number. The public has have not been shown if the weapon tested has the same serial number as the Glock service weapon that was assigned to him.

3. The public should be comfortable assuming only that the bullet that killed Suiter likely came from one of the thousands of similar weapons issued by the Baltimore Police department.

4. Suiter may not have ever fired a gun that day. His hand were wiped clean by an overzealous (unidentified) hospital employee, police said. While the report spends an inordinate amount of time discussing the blood on his sleeve, no mention was made of whether gunshot residue (GSR) tests were performed on his shirt or his jacket. Also curious is that BPD originally reported that blood was recovered on his suit jacket and was later changed to his sleeve for no apparent reason once the suicide theory took hold. No explanation is provided for the absence of any photographs on either Suiter’s jacket or his shirt before the IRB became involved a whole year after the shooting.

Unfounded Accusation #2 : Suiter fell on his gun.

Truth: No one has come forward saying they saw Suiter fall or can definitively say where his gun was before he was moved into the patrol car:

At best, the detective with Suiter is an unreliable witness (also a tradition at BPD) and at worse he saw who killed the detective, manipulated the crime scene and/or took part in the cover up. Only photos grabbed from body worn cameras (BWC) of responding officers were provided to the press and there have been no statements attributed to any specific individual saying he or she saw the gun under his body.

It’s not out of the realm of possibility that BPD planted a gun at the scene, removed it and submitted one into evidence and claimed it to be Suiter’s. Ironically, Suiter was scheduled to testify about how multiple Baltimore police officers conspired to hide an illegal fatal car chase by planting evidence that sent two innocent Black men to prison rather than admit they were merely speeding.

NOTE: BPD was reprimanded by the IRB for the contaminated crime scene and “recovery” of a service weapon from the trunk of a patrol car belonging to an unidentified officer at some unspecified time that was logged into evidence as Suiter’s gun.

Baltimore Police’s “Independent Review Board Report. Page 37
  1. In his official interviews, according to the IRB report, homicide detective David Bomenka changed his version of what he saw: included seeing a. Suiter in the act of falling, b. having just collapsed to the ground and c. having had already fallen. But he was was steadfast that he didn’t see a gun in his hand; he only said that he saw gun smoke near Suiter.
  2. Most surprisingly, we don’t know if Bomenka saw or heard Suiter on his departmental radio. There was a transmission of Suiter sounding like he was in distress just as he was shot, according to officials. That would be a question worth knowing the answer to.
  3. When back up officers arrived once Bomenka (or someone) called 911 (the public has not heard the recording either), the photo from the BWC and presented in the IRB report is out of focus and unclear. The peculiar wording indicates the officers “could see” the gun, not that they did see or even that said that they saw the gun. It’s a crucial distinction.

The newspaper of record in March 2018 reported as fact that Suiter’s gun, “freshly fired” was underneath his body when responding officers arrived. It’s important for responsible journalists to distinguish what police said and attribute their claims to the source as opposed to offering up speculation as factual information to a trusting public that journalists have not independently verified or obtained similar statements from multiple sources on the record.

Out of many, the most absurd claim is IRB’s determination that Suiter’s weapon undisputedly fired the fatal shot as it defies logic. First, they tested the blood on the gun BPD found in the patrol car of an unnamed officer who presented it as the same gun that was “freshly fired” that no one saw under his body. Voila, the blood tested on the gun gift wrapped to them matched Suiter’s DNA. Mind you Suiter was transported in a patrol car to the hospital bleeding from a head wound. Whoever removed the gun from the crime scene had ample opportunity to place blood on a service weapon – either a random service weapon or actually the one that belonged to Suiter.

IRB’s suicide theory would have been a more convincing claim had the IRB report included:

  • the serial numbers of Suiter’s assigned weapon showing they matched the gun tested
  • the gun tested was the exact same one was recovered at the crime scene (instead of a car trunk), but there are no crime scene photographs of where the gun was found making this impossible
  • BWC that clearly captured arriving officer’s discovery of the gun under his body as he was rolled over that may or may not be available
  • crime scene photos of the location of the gun and the bullet that no one thought to take
  • whether or not Suiter’s DNA was found on the “recovered” bullet
  • if bullets and casings didn’t just magically disappear from the scene after Suiter died

Confusingly, IRB depicts in a photo the bullet that was not tested for ballistics, have no DNA on them (presumably), and have zero evidentiary value. What should be pictured is Suiter’s firearm circling where the blood splatter was located that actually tested positive for his DNA. Page 42 of IRB report.

Missing from the report is exact amount of blood splatter reportedly on the gun that IRB tested for DNA recovered and tested from the barrel and gun surface. An assessment should be made about whether Suiter’s blood found on the weapon is consistent with someone adding blood to it, or if it is likely that the blood was from a single shot being fired at close range near someone’s head. The IRB made a similar splatter determination with blood photographed on the sleeve, but did not do so with the “smoking gun.”

The problems with a complicit media

So many questions remain unanswered about the investigation, despite the IRB. Last year, a second review of the case by Maryland State Police (MSP) was conducted, but to date no report was released to the public. Unlike the IRB, MSP did not conduct a press conference leaving media outlets to get the finding from Commissioner Michael Harrison. Without any scrutiny from the public, MSP concluded that Suiter shot himself in the head after firing three or more shots into the air before shooting himself.

Neither panel brought in by Baltimore Police department to “investigate” their investigation reported on the lockdown of Harlem Park and BPD certainly didn’t request that either group look into whether it was possible that anyone manipulated the crime scene as part of a wider cover up.

As long as the case remains open, public access to documents remain shielded. Harrison, the fourth commissioner since the shooting, had called the investigation closed after MSP’s findings, only walk it back once the State’s Attorney’s office countered him by calling it an open and pending matter last year as the second anniversary of Suiter’s death approached.

Even with what little is known, it should be at least clear that beyond statements attributed to David Bomenka, nothing reliable has been presented that 1. Suiter was shot with his own service weapon or 2. that his body fell on a smoking gun. Such reporting is far from fact and closer to fable. What is discernable from the reporting is that members of the media were not able to view BWC, did not hear the 911 call for help, have not spoken with any investigators on the record, or even been given witness statements to read.

In advance of the August 2018 IRB report the Baltimore Sun used unnamed and anonymous sources to float out the idea that Suiter shot himself in the head and then fell on his “freshly fired” gun as “new details”.

More from Baltimore Sun’s story by Justin Fenton from March 2018 just before the announcement that an IRB panel would be reviewing the methods BPD used to investigate the homicide.

Residents in the community heard between four and five gunshots according to news reports. Miraculously, after occupying the neighborhood for a week, the crime scene unit was unable to recover a single bullet, although they did retrieve three casings near where he lay dying in the lot. There’s no definitive proof offered that the recovered casings in any way matched Suiter’s weapon, yet the IRB said without hesitancy that they came from his gun, presumably because they were recovered near his body. The leaps in this reasoning might not be judged as too far fetched- had they found the other missing bullets that went into the air but didn’t come down where they could be easily found even after a week of looking for them.

Regrettably, mainstream media in real time shrugged at the occupation of West Baltimore during this entire process, arguably because of the nature of the crime makes them sympathetic to the dangers of law enforcement and more subtlety because the color of the skin of the people complaining about overreach made their claims less newsworthy. Although in November 2019 the ACLU heard the complaints and filed a lawsuit against BPD which did gain media attention.

To any casual observer, the unprecedented 24/7 lockdown of the neighborhood had nothing to do with looking for a shooter, or finding bullets (since they came up empty on both fronts) but served to manipulate the scene and make sure any concocted story would match witness accounts prompting a social media hashtag #FreeWestBaltimore.

Baltimore Sun Cowers in the Shadows of Fear as Abolishing Police Effort Sees Daylight

BALTIMORE – A defund police movement is kicking up dust across the country and an argument can certainly be made that the Baltimore Sun is feverishly busy sweeping the efforts under the rug.

This indeed is that argument.

What you call a thing matters. Journalists of any consequence know that. Some see an uprising that could lead to a revolt as a pathway to freedom. Others may see a riot that could result in a rebellion as a gateway to regime change – their regime.

defund the police street art
Artist @drew_koritzer posted on Twitter by @OrganizingBlack and supported by @DMVBlackLives, @byp100

A lot depends on one’s views on oppression. Regrettably, in a June 8, 2020 commentary, the Sun’s editorial stance reveals itself again to be on the wrong side of history with Black Baltimore and it is done at a time when it matters the most to all of the city’s citizens.

Baltimore’s deeply rooted racism

Baltimore City has a long history with what some today might call  “both sidesism.” Back in the mid 1800s  when the nation was struggling with how to proceed with demands to abolish slavery, the City’s economic and political leaders instead aligned itself with plantation owners of the south.  However, the Governor assured President Abraham Lincoln of Maryland’s allegiance to the Union’s cause.

Predictably heavily pro Confederate members of the Maryland State Assembly were arrested to thwart an insurrection.  This move merely forced southern sympathizers into hiding.  Is recent as May 2020, pamphlets and recruitment into Ku Klux Klan (KKK) espousing white supremacy are still commonplace in Maryland.

lincoln cropped

If Baltimore’s elite class had its way, there wouldn’t even had been a president Lincoln.  A thwarted plot to assassinate the president-elect as he traveled through the state on his way to his first inauguration is a story of legend.

Fast forward 160 years. Again we have a climbing crescendo of calls for local politicians to see an immoral institution as antiquated.  States are choosing to re-imagine public safety and policing in way that excludes the existence of the Baltimore Police department.

Where the Sun stands

Staying with the devil they know, The Sun has decided that there are indeed good people on both sides of #AbolishPolice efforts.  It returns to surface the old axiom that the “bad apples” within the department are resistant to submersion.

Are the police really that irredeemable, or are there just some bad apples that need to be sorted out? Maybe, maybe not. But at its heart, the defund movement isn’t really about getting rid of police entirely.” – Baltimore Sun Editorial May 8, 2020

 

It may help to think of the editorial board as the restaurant managers who decide on the décor, select the vendors, approve the menu, set work schedules. And then think of the reporters as the cooks in the kitchen. This perhaps helps to place its editorial in perspective.

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Two weeks after the George Floyd video that shocked the consciousness of most Americans went viral, the Sun’s editorial staff gave us a glimpse into whether it was shaping up to be a fine dining or an earnest family style establishment.

What we got was neither. With the Sun, we were forced fed the predictable greasy spoon diner fare commonly served up for the regulars who show up for the paper since segregation was legal and are known by name.

Since May 25th when 46 year old Floyd gasped his last breath under the weight of a knee to the back of his neck by an officer on a Minneapolis city sidewalk – up  until the editorial was published on June 8th, Baltimore had 11 straight days of protests in the street.

Proof corporations are not people

While organizers were busy lobbing tear gas canisters back at police, the owners of the Sun (and the Chicago Tribune) were reinforcing its blockade. Owners of both papers, Tribune Publishing, have called for more policing while reducing the demands to #AbolishPolice to be “ardent police critics, those who see the roots of modern policing in the practice of hunting down escaped slaves,” write the Sun editorial staff.

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In a June 10th editorial, the Chicago Tribune referenced its own Freddie Gray policing nightmare, the shooting death of 17 year old Laquan McDonald in 2014.  After an alleged  years-long cover up Chicago’s entered into its own federal Consent Decree in 2017  dictating ways to reform.

If only the Tribune Co’s editorial staff objectively read its own papers, they would see evidence of systemic racism in its very midst.

Resting on the idea that police are able to reform itself as the magic elixir is extremely unnerving especially to the over-policed communities they cover. Corporate ownership of news outlets has permitted business interests to usurp public accountability and shape a narrative that’s out of sync with the nation’s consciousness.

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A local paper in Minneapolis, MN warned caution against the defund police movement as well. The Star Tribune, owned by local businessman Glen Taylor echoed his city’s business leaders in saying getting rid of crime fighters will not eliminate crime. There’s not enough space in the entire cyber-sphere to adequately respond to that reasoning.  Suffice it to say – if only police were crime fighters, then it would be a discussion worth having.

This national moment of reckoning about police practices is rightly giving new momentum to overdue reform efforts. George Floyd’s death moved Americans to say “enough” and demand change. It should come soon. – Star Tribune Editorial June 10, 2020

Predictably, the Sun is waiting to see if the blue coats or if the grey coats capture the flag of this country’s moral future.  If Black lives are ever to matter in Baltimore, we can’t wait for  editorial staff sit on the sideline to see how another state fares.  “We would like to see how Minneapolis and other cities fare with their approaches,” wrote the Editorial staff.

The editorial team of all three papers are prepared to take a wait and see approach. They rest comfortably while their cooks/reporters and photographers scurry back and forth attempting to make palatable what the public can no longer digest.

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Consent decrees bridge activists and police to a road to nowhere

Be wary of those who grasp desperately onto the promise of police reform because it will create yet another black hole where exorbitant consultant fees and federal funds quickly disappear.

In May of this year, Seattle, WA asked to be removed from the constraints of its 2012 consent decree claiming it to be in full compliance with reform mandates.  The mission accomplished banner seems to be tarnished in wake of the national #disbandPolice movement.

Seattle protesters against police abuses created a law enforcement free “autonomous zone” called either CHAZ or CHOP after commandeering a local precinct building. The federal judge was expected to rule in August on the city’s request to come up from under its consent decree.

The recent events of Seattle show that “police reform” should no longer be on the menu. Nevertheless, the Sun editorial state reveals its stance that “There’s an urgency to addressing police misconduct and criminal justice disparities … but not necessarily to fundamentally changing course [emphasis added].” 

Resort to gaslighting when reason fails

Reform advocates are on one end of the spectrum while those who view defunding as an essential first step towards abolishing police is on another. Anybody who tells you differently is gaslighting you.

Baltimore Sun seems adamant in explaining that both people in reality are asking for the same thing.

A head chef/crime reporter, Justin Fenton, shocked the world in a June 19th article, when he wrote” The calls [to defund] mean different things to different people. Some organizations pushing for police reform want fewer resources for police and more money for the community.” He recognized a leader in the abolitionist movement is the People’s Power Assembly, something the editorial left out.

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A day after the City’s largest march, lead by Baltimore’s youth on June 1, it was made clear what the unifying demands were for the thousands who canvassed Baltimore’s streets.

“We are not calling for police reform. We are calling for police abolition. We understand that the police establishment as a whole is too corrupt for reform, therefore we are calling for a complete restructuring of the system.” – from The Youth June 2, 2020

Is the corporate media giant, respective editorial staff, and select reporters each taking turns gaslighting the rest of the nation? No.

Many of journalism’s stalwarts, much like most police departments, are institutional relics fervently resistant to change.  Both entrepreneur David Troy (in a 2016  editorial)  and Maryland Delegate Bilal Ali (in a 2018 letter to then Mayor Catherine Pugh) proposed disbanding the department.

They did so in the wake of very public corruption scandals proposing that reforming a culture of covering up criminality isn’t in the best interest of those victimized by BPD.

“I propose that this 150-year experiment be swiftly ended. Let’s shut down the Baltimore Police Department as it exists in its current form and create a new agency that is empowered and properly constituted to meet all constitutional and legal requirements as set forth by the DOJ from its inception. ” – David Troy, 2016 Baltimore Sun

In a supreme act of gaslighting, the Sun’s editorial sought to shove down our throats the mightiest of comfort food when it wrote: “Frankly, police departments were already headed toward defunding.”  Surely the Sun isn’t suggesting that without the direct action of burning down precincts – we would have gotten here eventually anyways? Riiiight.

The Sun’s editorial brain trust didn’t mention the years of work and ideas put forth by the likes of Troy, Ali, PPA, The Youth, or ACLU.  Instead it awarded a defacto defunding of Law Enforcement to (wait for it) the resume of President Donald Trump.   The Sun viewed his mishandling of the COVID19 pandemic as akin to an unintended consequence that pushed municipalities toward “lean times” that will affect police budgets – thus defund them.

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The degree of mental gymnastics the board performed to arrive at thank Trump for defunding police is a marvel yet to be paralleled.

One can only surmise that the Sun is trying to tell its readership that the thing that they see (a demand to upend Baltimore Police)  isn’t  the thing that they fear – an effort to dismantle White Supremacy.

An unexamined editorial position is not one worth having. Whether this argument stands that the Sun is cowering from the light that oppressive policing is no longer palatable will be known soon enough.

Soon the recently racially diverse editorial staff will likely to take a stance on upcoming issues ripe for gaslighting: the city’s budget priorities, the presidential debates, the ongoing failures of the consent decree and the leadership of  Commissioner Michael Harrison.  I’ll be right here waiting, sort of.

Lincoln had it right.  Maybe the way to challenge the system is to put on a disguise, and make only clandestine  trips through Baltimore.

 

BPD and the Art of Planting Evidence: Sean Suiter and the GTTF

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BWC video discovered by a defense attorney captured BPD officer Richard Pinheiro Jr in January 2017 fabricating evidence, a judged found him guilty in a Nov 2018 trial. Staging crime scenes turns out is not a fire-able offense. ScreenGrab CBS Evening News

Pinpointing when the culture of deceit took hold within the halls of the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) is not a puzzle worth solving.   Somewhere along the way the department lost all credibility, any moral authority and, at times, even its legitimacy.

No clearer example of BPD’s downfall was when Det Sean Suiter, barely hanging on to life, was transported from the intersection of Bennett Place and Schroeder Street the afternoon of November 15, 2017.  It was that day that the ugliness the city shied away from was thrust squarely in peoples’ faces so no one could continue to ignore the obvious.

Part II : Sean Suiter was accused of unknowingly planting evidence with GTTF; BPD’s coordinated a suppression of liberty and freedoms with aid of a complicit media in the week-long lockdown of Harlem Park.

Rewind the clock back eight months from Suiter’s death to the arrest of seven dirty BPD officers linked to the Gun Trace Task Force (GTTF). From March 1, 2017 a series of unfortunate events lead Suiter to Bennett Place reliving a single city block’s horrid history of violence, condemnation, and isolation.

Spring 2017

While in a county holding facility awaiting trial, unit supervisor and ex U.S. Marine Sgt Wayne Jenkins encouraged all members of his unit arrested to maintain their silence.  All had plead not guilty to a variety of RICO charges.

It would be a waiting game of who would crack first. Spoiler: Jenkins was sentenced to 25 years and did not testify.

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Former PC Kevin Davis awarded Wayne Jenkins in 2016 for his heroic efforts during the 2015 uprising – yep the same time he was cashing in on looted pharmaceutical drugs.

July 6, 2017

Additional robbery charges  were levied in a superseding indictment against Jenkins along with Danny Hersl and Marcus Taylor.

July 21, 2017

The blue line of silence snapped when two GTTF officers, Evodio Hendrix and Maurice Ward, plead guilty and agreed to be government witnesses.  Ultimately their sentences of seven years would be the lightest.

Note: Hendrix’s testimony was the most credible. Ward, the first to testify, came across highly intelligent, yet extremely manipulative and opportunistic.

August 22, 2017

On the 900 block of Bennett Place, a 15-year old boy was shot numerous times and died from his injuries.  Police made an arrest in the murder of the teen, Jeffrey Quick but charges were dropped as Baltimore State’s Attorney’s office was crippled by discredited officers and tainted evidence.

August 30, 2017

The eighth GTTF member is indicted, Sgt Thomas Allers.

It was clear to anyone watching that Hendrix, Ward, Rayam and Gondo were cooperating.  Panic had to be setting in for not just the corrupt officers, but those who were protecting them. Allers was sentenced to 15 years.

Escape Routes for Jenkins and His Protectors Closed

Jenkins was known to tell officers who worked in his crew some parts while telling other people in the unit different aspects of his criminal activity.  Hendrix and Ward were in the dirt of GTTF up to their chins, but they didn’t know where the bodies were buried. Feds picked the lowest hanging fruit first.

As long as Gondo and Rayam kept quiet, then Jenkins stood a chance. Hersl and Taylor taking a shot at a jury, proved their checkers game was no match with such high stakes.

September 2017

BPD’s Western District Action Team raided two Heritage Crossing residences, a five minute walk from 900 block of Bennett Place and made two arrests with great fanfare. Officer Zachary Novak, infamous for being with the officers who arrested Freddie Gray, was listed as one of the arresting officers in the raids near Bennett Place just before Sean Suiter was murdered.

Novak seemed to be everywhere and no where as Freddie Gray’s limp body finally arrived at Western District HQ in April 2015, along with another passenger who would give varied accounts of what he heard and saw riding with Gray.

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As of this writing, Damien Cook, is still a housed in the Maryland Department of Correction.  Byron Harris was released the week of his arrest.

October 5, 2017

Kenneth Maddox, 45, was arrested and charged with the shooting death of the teenager Jeffrey Quick by a long list of BPD homicide detectives, including David Bomenka.

October 11, 2017

GTTF officer Momodu  Gondo plead guilty to protecting a heroin ring operated in Baltimore along with criminal conspiracy charges that involved Wayne Jenkins.  Two days prior, on Tuesday October 9, GTTFer Jemell Rayam plead guilty to similar racketeering charges.  Both greed to cooperate and expose crimes within BPD.  Gondo received a 10 year sentence to Rayam got 2.

Only a few chess pieces remained on the board.  Sgts Wayne Jenkins and Thomas Allers had maintained their innocence, along with Daniel Hersl and Marcus Taylor and the feds prepared for trial.

Suiter Lawyers Up to Cooperate With the Feds

October 24, 2017

Suiter declined the FBI’s request for an interview on the GTTF.  This would lead them to issue a subpoena for him to testify on November 16, 2017.

It’s likely Sean Suiter took whatever he knew about the corruption within BPD to his grave. He was likely going to implicate those involved in framing two men in the death of 86 year old Elbert Davis in April 2010.

Umar Bradley went to prison on the word of members of the GTTF unit who claimed Sean Suiter found drugs in the car he was driving at the end of a high speed chase in Park Heights. He was also convicted of manslaughter because while Jenkins was chasing him, Bradley crashed into a car driven by an elderly couple (the parents of BPD officers no less).

The wrongful conviction of Bradley and his passenger Brent Mathews threatened to expose a higher echelon of criminals working within BPD. Both Sgt. Ryan Guinn and Sgt Keith Gladstone were implicated in the cover up.

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Keith Gladstone outside federal courthouse in May 2019 after pleading guilty to bringing the gun and drugs to the scene used to set up Bradley and Mathews.

Tuesday November 14, 2017

Sean Suiter and Bomenka spent the day investigating leads on Suiter’s the triple murder cold case from December 2016. It was unusual for Suiter to pair up with Bomenka.

Wednesday November 15, 2017

Bomenka and Suiter again spent the entire day together and as their shift was coming to a close, Suiter was fatally shot. His body was recovered on a vacant lot off the 900 block of Bennett Place close to Schroeder St. Witnesses heard about four total shots.

Patrol officers arrived and loaded Suiter into a car.  Leaving the scene, they backed into another patrol car for that day’s first accident.  En route to the hospital the car with Suiter was in an accident with yet another patrol car at the intersection of Martin Luther King Blvd and Baltimore St.

Suiter is moved again to an ambulance that was at the intersection. Bomenka stayed at the scene on Bennett Place.

Countless and undocumented law enforcement officers and notable political figures converged on the scene that night and over the course of the days that followed. The scene was a free-for-all, except media was excluded.

Thursday November 16, 2017

Sean Suiter’s name was released to the public and his death announced. Police gave Bomenka’s description of a person of interest: a black man wearing a black jacket with a white stripe.  PC Kevin Davis said the suspect could be injured as Suiter was shot after a brief struggle.

The narrative was shaped that he was shot with his own gun, which has never been proven.

Baltimore police expanded the perimeter of the crime scene from the block where Suiter’s body was recovered to include an indeterminate number of city square blocks clear up to Gilmor Homes where Freddie Gray was chased and arrested.

Media was also barred from the scene. The shield of secrecy would extend into the daylight hours.

November 17, 2017

The media black out continued and cops took to writing and handing out passes that allowed Harlem Park residents to get into their homes after working or running errands.

WANTED: Eyes and Ears On The Ground

The corner store owner filed a lawsuit against BPD claiming that the department took and destroyed his cameras. The stalwart known for posting wanted signs and cooperating with BPD to halt criminal activity around Bennett Place no longer had footage that included the Suiter.

BPD has never addressed what, if anything, was captured on the store’s cameras that covered Fremont Ave and the community of Heritage Crossing.

Also shielded from public view and scrutiny were the body worn cameras (BWC) of officers involved in locking down the expanded perimeter of Harlem Park for over a week. IRB provided still photos of BWC captured by officers as patrol cars arrived in response to a 911 call, which was also not made public.

The day after the ACLU complained of violations by cordoning off large city blocks and required residents to show ID in order to enter and exit their neighborhoods, BPD relented and pulled back its expansive perimeter, but maintained security around the vacant lot.

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November 22, 2017

Not unlike Pinheiro’s “discovery” of drugs earlier in the year (in a Barney Fife imitation), BPD’s homicide unit also got into the act. The perimeter was pulled back just long enough for  WBAL to film the “discovery” of the kill bullet, buried in dirt – seven full days after a slew of investigators combed the area.  Surprisingly no other bullets were found. It’s like the casings fell out of thin air.

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Lambasted by the IRB report that a crime scene tech wasn’t searching for the errant bullet, a homicide detective acts out the discovery in the few hours that the cordon was removed before it was reinstated. ScreenGrab David Collins WBAL TV Twitter

Frustrations grew over the lockdown.  Police stopped asking people for help finding  the black man wearing the black jacket. Restricted movement remained in the occupied territory of Harlem Park. 

Late afternoon on the day before Thanksgiving, PC Kevin Davis called a press conference and announced Suiter was shot the day before he was scheduled to testify in the highly publicized GTTF case.

The city gasped. Finally a potential motive.

No one had publicly connected Suiter to Jenkins’ crew until this bombshell news. A motive for BPD’s lockdown might have been to pre-emptively thwart rising public discontent over the extent of BPD corruption still not addressed from Freddie Gray’s murder investigation. While the Consent Decree monitoring team and the ACLU both have called for one, no investigation into the police state created in Harlem Park has occurred.

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Up Next

Part III: Whispers of suicide in BPD’s bought and paid for panel of independent experts reviewing the agency’s investigation of Suiter’s death and the unraveling of the IRB report

 

 

A Chronicle of Indifference: Blood Spilled on Baltimore’s Bennett Place

PROLOGUE

Bennett Place in West Baltimore will forever be ingrained in many peoples’ memories because of the blazoned shooting death of Baltimore Police detective Sean Suiter on a cool clear fall afternoon in 2017.

The aftermath of Suiter’s death was felt immediately with a suspension of Habeas Corpus for the entire Harlem Park neighborhood that has yet to be addressed. And also long term as the shadows of suspicion hang darkly over a department desperate to shine itself in a new light.

Outside of the city, what’s incredulous is how BPD easily discounted that Suiter was shot the evening before he was supposed to show up as a federal witness to snitch on a complicated network of dirty cops.

The closer you get to the city, the debate breaks along racial lines and consequently also those who generally have a high opinion of the agency. They are the ones who grapple with whether or not Suiter committed suicide because he was fearful of the “snitch label” that accompanied testifying or if he himself was dirty.

People seriously entertain that Suiter took a partner with him to Bennett Place to kill himself, but stage it as a homicide, so his family could reap the monetary benefits. 

BPD apologists are quick to point out that if the feds believed it was a hit by dirty cops, they would have taken over the case when BPD asked.

Then there are black people and others who are suspicious of LE and more broadly the criminal justice system in general.  Sean Suiter’s widow and children have not been shy pointing the finger directly at BPD (calling it an “inside job“)  for covering up and in some ways being responsible for his death. Screenshot (1192)While there hasn’t been a murder on Bennett Place since Sean Suiter’s, there has been plenty of violent murders prior.

Screenshot (1196)

ScreenGrab Baltimore Sun May 2019

Part I

Historically Bennett Place has suffered from bad press since the 1960s when redlining and later public housing would make the one block stretch a tinder box of discontent. Even today soon as the heat from the national attention from Suiter’s death dissipated, the department for sure and consequently local media seem content to let it fade from memory.

What follows is a timeline of connected activity spurred by politics, hubris, neglect, bias, intimidation and fear. At the center of it all is the Baltimore City Police department (BPD, an illegitimate agency that ought to be disbanded.

Summer 2013

Experimenting with a Police State. Baltimore police under PC Anthony Batts erected metal gates restricting entry and exit to the 900 block of Bennett Place in response to two recent fatal shootings.  A mobile unit was stationed nearby staffed by a dedicated officer. This was presented in news as normal reaction.

The victims were Maurice Taylor, 37 and Joshua Billingsley, 26.  Neither death was reported to be gang related. The corner store, UAC Food Mart, was equipped with 20 video cameras. Store owner Chris Akpala behind bullet proof glass was known to post on his walls “wanted” pictures captured from his cameras of known troublemakers in the neighborhood, according to Baltimore Sun.

gated community

Summer 2015

Chaos Ushers In the Feds. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake fired PC Batts and promoted Kevin Davis in the aftermath of the demonstrations that followed the death of Freddie Gray who lived in the Harlem Park vicinity.

Property damage was minimal save the cable news stations’ looping on a burned CVS store in Penn North. But the DEA said 27 pharmacies ( a staggering one third of ALL pharmacies located in the city) were looted totaling 315,000 doses – nearly half of which were schedule II drugs like opioids, the Sun reported. It was later discovered that a dirty BPD sold looted drugs to return back to the streets

BPD imposed a work slowdown in West Baltimore, in protest to the uprising and the political climate that resulted in six officers being charged with Gray’s homicide.

(Later, the officers’ attorneys challenged the ME’s finding of homicide, preferring instead to to call it an accident resulting from Gray intentionally thrashing himself inside the transport van). This theory has been debunked in a popular Undisclosed podcast.

Nonetheless, signs of life sprung up in Harlem Park in wake of the 2015 death of Freddie Gray after the uprising.

At the request of Mayor Rawlings-Blake, on the heels of the unrest, the Department of Justice (DOJ) began its yearlong investigation into BPD’s patterns and practices regarding claims of civil rights abuses.

Summer 2016

Feds Nab Dirty BPD on a Wiretap. Gun violence and drug overdoes spiked to record numbers.  Fentanyl deaths were up 86% in Maryland.  Baltimore States Attorney dropped all charges on all officers after judge acquitted Lt. Brian Rice of involuntary manslaughter charges. BPD’s work slowdown continued fatally impacting West Baltimore.

In the meantime, feds were listening in on a wiretap and caught a BPD officer discussing using a personal GPS device to make sure a suspected drug dealer wasn’t in his home in order to assist a rival drug dealer in a burglary.  A woman, in bed at the time of the break in,was robbed by a masked BPD officer at gunpoint.

While building the drug case, feds stumbled upon members of a specialized BPD unit called the Gun Trace Task Force (GTTF) committing and covering up robberies, drug deals and overtime fraud.

Also, the DOJ issued its findings in a scathing report outlined a pattern of constitutional violations which would lead to the city consenting to reform itself under court supervision.

Sunday December 4, 2016

The Triple Murder That Brought Suiter to Bennett Place. Residents in 900 block of Bennett Place called 911 about 3 am to report sounds of gunfire.  Baltimore Police responded and left.

Though concerned all morning, residents of 900 block of Bennett Place waited to call Baltimore Fire Department and someone requested a welfare check. Fire officials found a body and called BPD.

Police located three deceased black males in a boarded up house at 5:45 pm.  Sean Suiter, reportedly the detective assigned to the case, returned to the scene multiple times, the final time was nearly a full year later on the day he was killed.

Monday December 5, 2016

BPD labeled the murder victims as “targeted” (instead of random) and proclaimed them to be Black Guerrilla Family (BGF) gang members (an oft used tactic). Once labeled gang related, the triple murder became less palatable to suburban paid subscribers. The methods LE use to link people to gangs is controversial.

Saturday December 10, 2016

Police publicly identify the victims as Antonio Davis, 23; Howard Banks ,45 and Thomas Carter, 42.  Police’s public outreach to solve this murder was minimal based on the messaging delivered by BPD spokesperson T. J. Smith.

2017 Sean Suiter’s world collides with the fate of GTTF

 

January 2017

Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States. The new administration under the leadership of DOJ Secretary Jeff Sessions produced a consent decree to the Baltimore City and the Police Department that mandated sweeping and costly reforms.

Catherine Pugh was also inaugurated as the city’s next mayor. Rawlings-Blake did not seek re-election.

March 1, 2017

Seven Baltimore Police officers, linked to the specialized unit (GTTF), were arrested as feds announced a sordid criminal conspiracy indictment involving crimes that went back at least a decade and some capers as recent as mere days before their actual arrest.


Part II : Accusation Sean Suiter unknowingly planted evidence with GTTF and sent two innocent men to prison; BPD’s coordinated a suppression of liberty and freedoms with aid of a complicit media in the week-long lockdown of Harlem Park

Part III: Whispers of suicide in BPD’s bought and paid for panel of independent experts reviewing the agency’s investigation of Suiter’s death and the unraveling of the IRB report

Cops as Criminals: It’s Not Black and White

All crooked cops aren’t created equally.

Some are born crooked. Some are led astray. Still others, like Momodo Gondo, has crookedness thrust upon him.

No one can pinpoint exactly when Baltimore Police became a hotbed of corruption. More importantly though, no one alive today can honestly remember when it wasn’t.

Screenshot (1982)

Above: Momodu Gondo points to former BPD commander Dean Palmere (Below) who helped orchestrate the cover up of a murder carried out by a GTTF member. Palmere is the subject of a lawsuit that claims it was his command that permitted abuses by GTTF.

Screenshot (2022)

Gondo and his closest Baltimore Police Department (BPD) buddy Jemell Rayam set the federal courthouse on fire last year as cooperating witnesses against two officers standing trial, Daniel Hersl and Marcus Taylor. The testimony was explosive pointing fingers at higher ups and eventually one another as members of the media darlings: Gun Trace Task Force (GTTF).

Gondo is scheduled for sentencing Tuesday February 12th. The month-long trial left a lasting impression:  corruption is rampant throughout BPD and everybody knows it.  The most influential media types have coddled the likes of former BPD commissioner and WBAL guest talk show host Kevin Davis who as points to a few bad apples tarnishing an otherwise stellar organization.

The world (not an exaggeration) took notice of BPD’s level of corruption after what happened to 25-year old Freddie Gray.  A bystander’s  video of Gray, wounded and howling, sickened all with a conscience who heard it.  People still cringe watching the previously healthy and strapping young man being helped into the back of a van by a cadre of white officers.

So there’s that.

Even before Gray’s fatal injuries in police custody, in 2014, the Baltimore Sun chronicled the exorbitant payouts in taxpayer dollars to silence citizens who suffered mightily at the hands of a small, but growing and increasingly violent cadre of police officers.

If Baltimore didn’t invent Walking While Black, it sure did its damnest to perfect it. Screenshot (2023)

West Baltimore is where the long arm of constitutional protections simply does not reach.  Never did. Generations of families suffer from substandard housing, lack of health care, poor nutrition, high drop out rates and low income with precious few escapes.

Heavily reliant upon mass transits, West Baltimore is where BPD members hone their racist practices disguised as stops, searches, and seizures.  Sadly, two decades into the new millennium, some blacks believe that over policing is what is needed to make their communities safe.

The lack of concern for West Baltimore was never more evident that during the uprising when Douglass High School students were dismissed early from school, only to have the MTA refuse them service at the Mondawmin Metro stop, forcing them to walk home, only to be confronted with grown as police men (mostly) in riot gear hurling chunks of brick at the children.

AP_baltimore_10_kab_150427_11x7_1600

After a yearlong investigation, the Department of Justice (called in after the Freddie Gray homicide), released its findings in an August 2016 scathing report. To no one’s surprise, the DOJ found that systemic racist practices were embedded so deep into the culture that BPD had not shed even a layer of its  history cloaked with KKK sympathizers.

The corruption was inescapable in 2016. Even so, when black homicide detective Sean Suiter was shot in the back of his head in November 2017 on a vacant lot in broad daylight with a white partner in tow, no one hardly blinked when BPD treated residents of Harlem Park like it was Fullujah.

Parallels to the Iraq War and BPD training are eerily similar.  Evidence of mistreatment of women recruits was captured as a “trophy”.

Arguably, Momodo Gondo, as an eager recruit didn’t join BPD with plans of using his badge and glock as a literal license to kill, maim, intimidate and harass.  The kid came from a “good family” of immigrants in a two parent household of professionals.

His father, Albert Gondo, a native of Sierra Leonne (as is his wife), worked for 20 years as a teacher in Baltimore City Public Schools. He died in December 2016 after a lengthy battle with Cancer.  According to his family, he was known a a principled man, a devoted husband and father.

When emotions ran high during the GTTF trial, Gondo would take to swearing on the memory of his dead father to repudiate fellow detective Jemelle Rayam’s claim about why Gondo was shot shoon after leaving the Academy. Rayam has yet to be sentenced.

If Gondo wasn’t born bad, when did it all go wrong?

The Academy – 2005

Gondo @22 years old

Gondo and his academy brother  Rayam are the final two government witnesses awaiting sentencing.  Gondo – under oath accused Rayam of cold-blooded murder (explored further in Part II) that was covered up by Palmere.

Academy training has more in common with military training than the most of the public may know. The enemy are the people on the street, the community members and the only ones cops trust are themselves.  The creed is to make it home safe. It rarely has anything to do with protecting and serving the public. Especially if the public is black, male and doubly so if he lives in West Baltimore.

Indoctrination and training are the two major components of the trainee’s experiences.  Like the military, the BPD academy experience is designed to break down a person, and build them up. Not coincidentally, it also serves as a loyalty demand. Recruits early on learn to depend on the brotherhood as if their life depended on it.

Gondo graduated in October 2006.

Screenshots from a 2004 era video of a training exercise where a trainee exits a gas house puking with her skin burning reliant upon BPD to carry her to safety. The level of depravity at BPD seemingly knows no bounds.

3 Shots in the Back – 2006

Gondo @23 years old

Then-Officer Gondo was shot three times in the back in December 2006, barely two months after graduating the academy.  Using a photo array, Gondo fingered the shooter as 24-year old Collin Hawkins (with a long history of drug dealing offenses on his record).  The feds, not the Baltimore States Attorney’s office made the case.

The particular moment that turned Gondo into a career criminal cannot be exact, but the same cannot be said for determining when BPD failed him and the community he was allowed to stalk.

Attempted Murder Trial – 2008

Gondo @25 years old

A case of He said vs He said.

The jury returned a not guilty verdict for the man charged with pumping 3 bullets into the back of a bullet proof vest Gondo was wearing as he got out of his car near his home in East Baltimore.

As the victim (and a cop to boot) Gondo pointed out for the jury,  a young black man Collin Hawkins as the person he fired 13 rounds at in a street shoot out. Gondo told the jury that he he and Hawkins struggled as he tried to thwart a carjacking. No dice. The jury decided not to believe Gondo.

Hawkins’ defense attorney claimed that Gondo simply chose the wrong guy. The defense pointed to the State’s Attorney’s Office’s extremely weak case with no gun, no DNA from the reported struggle. It was just the rookie’s word,  and it wasn’t enough.

Next Up: in Part II Fed Witness Testimony and The Sentencing

Judge says Baltimore Police Too Big to Fail, But that Ship Might Not Hold Water

Baltimore.

Not quite Charm City.

Far from Bodymore, Murderland.

A town with an abundance of big city problems – much more like, Small-timore.

Members of AFSCME Local 1195 Baltimore, Maryland Police Union strike in 1969.
BPD walked off the job in 1974 even after gaining widespread protections in passage of the state’s Law Enforcement Bill of Rights (LEOBR) in 1972.  Pushback prevented collective bargaining until 1982 leading to today’s FOP3.

Baltimore is big on grit, tenacity, history, humor all blended together to make for a special brand of what some call charm.  Tinged by the threatening cloud hovering over the major sports stadiums and scaring away any potential corporate growth is the city’s biggest budget item: The Baltimore Police Department.

The Problem

Baltimore’s Police Department is too big – to fail.  Yeah, just like the banks that suckered people into mortgages they could not afford, made a ca-billion dollars by packaging the loans together, disguising their value, and getting taxpayers to bail them out when their balance sheets couldn’t add up.

Chief U.S. District Judge James K. Bredar in his remarks Thursday during the second quarterly update by the parties involved in Consent Decree declared (Small-timore) Police Department too big to fail.  The analogies didn’t stop there.

Judge Bredar was clearly no fan of BPD at any point while negotiating the Consent Decree between the feds and the city and then selecting a monitoring team to oversee the process.  Furthermore, he is set to spend the next 5-10 years enforcing the decree to fix the ails (Monitoring Team points to “decades of neglect and mismanagement”) that DOJ uncovered when it pulled back the covers of BPD following the in custody death of Freddie Gray.

Still after witnessing all the ugliness festering inside a racist institution with little challenge for generations, Bredar then was subjected to a month long trial with sordid tales of murder, drug dealing, robberies, and the efforts to cover up the crimes while working as special unit detectives with the Baltimore Police dept.  Bredar spits out each letter of the Gun Trace Task Force (GTTF) like he’s riding himself of the taste of a bad peanut at an Orioles game.

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Judge James K. Bredar. Undated Photo. Presumably 10 year old. caption

Even this judge, with all that he has seen, is not in favor of disbanding BPD and starting over.  This city is not Camden, New Jersey he said.

“It’s not going to happen” said Bredar. There will be no fourth quarter “hail Mary pass” by way of a magical fix to the dept’s woes.  Anything other than sticking to the course set forward by the Monitoring Team is an “infeasible concept.”

At times the Judge appeared at a lost, but nonetheless compelled to dole out some measure of encouragement. For instance, he liked Solicitor Andre Davis’ oratory skills. Maybe how his forced sincerity bounced off the portraits hanging on the chamber walls.

With a proverbial pat on his head, Judge acknowledged how interim BPD Commissioner Gary Tuggle is pressing forward meeting deadline after deadline in drafting  policies that most likely eventually be tossed in the trash. Bredar expects whoever eventually takes over the helm, and rightfully so, would want his or her stamp on the process. Mayor Catherine Pugh did not attend this day long hearing. At the first hearing she and DeSousa left immediately after giving their opening remarks.

“BPD is the only police department that going to police the city of Baltimore – especially in my lifetime,” said Bredar.

Even with his commitment to the institution, the the judge ticks off significant if not insurmountable wrongs with BPD namely:

BPD has no commissioner. It’s had three in first six months of the year. Depending on the analogy of the day, the department lacks a construction foreman, compass on a barn, rudder on a ship, architect with blueprints, pilot with a flight plan,  foundation to a skyscraper – it’s become quite comical as new ones crop up.

City Solicitor Andre Davis said 10 resumes have been submitted after a nationwide posting and efforts were being made to replace former Commissioner Darryl DeSousa chosen by Pugh, who resigned  four months into the job after admitting to failing to file his taxes for multiple years.  Davis  attempted to assure the judge that the “flight plan” that the city has put forth using the Police Research Forum to aid in selection of the next commissioner will have one in place by Halloween.

Judge Bredar’s concerns were not assuaged.  “Sooner than that I hope,” he said. Everyday there is one or two negative things in the press.  He pointed to the officer arrested that week in Baltimore County county on charges of selling prescription narcotics.

“I’m not afraid to make the tough decisions” the Judge said. And then slightly under his breath,  “I don’t always make the popular decision.”

While claiming BPD is too big to fail in his eyes, Bredar had little difficulty often pointing out the department’s numerous and substantial umm, failures:

  • Staffing shortages
  • Stalled union negotiations
  • Fiscal constraints
  • Void in technology infrastructure
  • Lack of leadership
  • Deft of public trust

The Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) which houses Internal Affairs Department (IAD) is a revolving door of people in command with no policy to implement and not captain to steer the ship.  The department said the judge is an “essential organ in a healthy police body.”

“I suggest there are no more critical questions than one, who will be the next commissioner and two does that person have what it takes to lead the department out of the wilderness.”

The Department of Justice (DOJ) chimed in with its own concerns of the “capacity” the department has to make any changes. Along with being the “complainant” in the Consent Decree urging reform, the DOJ is participating with other federal agencies on four ongoing investigations of BPD:

  1. The death of Det. Sean Suiter
  2. Accusations of rushing recruits through the Academy
  3. BPD’s role in revelations uncovered by the GTTF trial
  4. Allegations that an officer lied on the stand in a criminal matter

Problems to Come

Suffering from a back ailment, Judge Bredar often looked uncomfortable at the bench. He said he is bracing himself on the results of the full investigation of BPD’s actions during last year’s Harlem Park lock down.  Citizens implored government intervention to no avail with pleas of #FreeWestBaltimore.  After Det. Sean Suiter was shot on in Nov 15, 2017, BPD all but suspended the Constitution by erecting an expanded perimeter that kept innocent people virtually prisoners in their homes.  Then commissioner Kevin Davis swatted away concerns of violations excusing them in favor of a pressing murder investigation.

Judge Bredar took particular exception to command’s reaction.  Noting it is in exactly times of stress and upheaval that training, adherence to policy and procedure is needed and must be adhered to. Baltimore failed.

The media and others did not recognize that it wasn’t just Harlem Park who suffered when then Commissioner Kevin Davis displayed a utter breakdown in his failure to lead, the entire department and therefore all of the citizens experienced a rip in the very fabric of what holds a civilization together. “The fix is at the top of the organization. Right now we don’t have a top,” said Bredar.

Stops and searches went on for nearly a week after Suiter’s murder. People were detained, some where brought into police station, most without their consent and questioned. One officer out of the multitude that ascended to 900 block of Bennett Place had activated her body worn camera capturing two hours of footage.

Children were kept out of school. Some were even given written passes permitting their travel in and around certain neighborhoods.

“The verdict’s not in” but in talks with the monitoring team “My suspicion is that it’s going to be disturbing.”

 

Trumped Up Charges: Convincing the Public Det Suiter’s Death Was Suicide

A vacant lot in West Baltimore is the absolute last place a Baltimore City Police officer would choose to die. Ask any of them.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s focus on both the how and why the Baltimore Police would suggest otherwise.  A review of several notable events will show that BPD has everything to gain and very little to lose if Det. Sean Suiter’s shooting death was changed from a homicide to a suicide.

sean suiter headshot
Det. Sean Suiter

The Evidence As We Know It

BPD has been extraordinarily tight lipped about the investigation from day one.  We’ve been lead to believe not much exists to help solve the case.  A lack of forensic evidence: no DNA lifted from Suiter’s clothing. Nothing recovered from the gun used to shoot him and an eyewitness description of the assailant that should no longer be considered as viable.

Murder Weapon

What is not in dispute is that the 18-year veteran suffered a fatal gunshot wound to the head.  Three (or four) shots were fired, with at one to the head, occurring in a garbage-strewn lot where a vacant building used to stand.  While BPD insists the shot came from his own service weapon, no evidence has been put forth to substantiate this claim.  Suiter’s hands were wiped clean.

No tests exists to prove that the bullet “found” a week after the shooting was the one that killed Suiter.  Nor is there any proof that the gun found under his body once patrol arrived is the same gun that fired the bullet that killed him. The gun was retrieved in a patrol car some hours later after the Suiter was removed from the scene/

Reportedly, Suiter and his partner were on Bennett Place following up on a year-old homicide. He was shot at about 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday November 15, 2017 with no witnesses to the shooting.  If we are to believe his partner Det. David Bomenka (and there’s not reason anyone should) and his recollection of seeing a suspicious person about 20 minutes before the shooting, we can put them scene since as early as 4 pm.

 

suiter 2 cadets
Police cadets canvass neighborhoods seeking assistance in solving Suiter’s murder.

The maddeningly vague description by a seasoned police homicide detective still has watchers scratching their heads.  The suspect (of course) is a black man, wearing a black jacket with a white stripe. A description, presumably provided by the one eyewitness, so vague that it makes one wonder why Commissioner Kevin Davis shared it with the public in the first place.  The suspect description has been fertile ground for conspiracy theorists to sow wild beliefs from day one.  This “description” given by BPD while all other helpful information was withheld from the public is the primary reason BPD has only itself to blame for even why #SuiterTheories is a thing.

black man suspect
Ever ready black male suspect sought.

No age, no height, no weight, was observable by – not just any run-of-the-mill “shook” witness, but a trained  law enforcement officer came up empty on crucial description elements.  However, Bomenka mustered enough cop parlance to say he saw Stuiter struggle with a”black man” who he observed earlier and was “acting suspiciously.”

It’s crucial to also note that  this “description” was not provided to cops responding immediately to the scene.  They were told that there was no suspect description at all!  The next day, a “description” was ultimately provided to the public, and within days, BPD quickly did a re-shuffle and  instructed the public not to consider the black man and black jacket at all because he probably took it off.  Sigh.

Still there was a reward amount, a record high of $215,000.  But we were not asked to look for anyone other than a black man, no age, no height, no build.  Peoples’ suspicion grew.  The eyes of the nation were once again on Baltimore Police Department.

The Timeline

Inexplicably, a timeline of Suiter’s activities for that day was never given.  Maybe he cut someone off  driving and this was a delayed road rage incident.  Someone might have witnessed that. Perhaps someone spotted Suiter at a store he was at earlier, followed him to that location which led to a confrontation or some type of retaliation. Maybe he was sought out by someone who encountered him for a previous arrest or run-in. We’ll never know.  The police have not given any details about what has been ruled out.

Homicide investigations 101 include a timeline of the victim’s activities.  The detectives could have gotten there as early as noon or as late at 4 pm.  But cast that in the huge empty bucket of unknowns. It’s also unknown if they arrived at the same time or in the same car even. Remember, an enticing reward was dangled, but nothing to aid the public to claim it.  BPD never gave the public anything close to a timeline of Suiter’s movements that day to help solve his death as a murder.  It’s almost like it was the city’s first and only murder.

Pretty much everything else has been tainted by innuendo, cloaked in secrecy, and of course, some details Suiter has taken with him to his grave.

Suiter’s Staged “Homicide”

To sell the murder as a suicide, and a staged one at that, BPD will  likely combine a “reasonable motive” along with a description of how Suiter had both the opportunity and skill to pull off a staged homicide.  The theory will center around Suiter’s  apprehension to testify and his desire to leave his five children financially secure. When this is done (with the assistance of compliant media partners), BPD believes it can slam the lid shut on the Det. Suiter death and move forward with the city’s business.  Narrative changed!

The Location

The day before he was set to testify in a federal grand jury case involving corruption in a gun unit at BPD, Suiter along with Det. Bomenka, not his regular partner, set out to West Baltimore.  Bennett Place is a one way westbound residential street that runs parallel to Franklin St and Route 40, which is a major east/west thoroughfare. Schroeder St intersects Franklin St to the north and Fremont Ave crosses it to the south.

It was early in the afternoon a comfortable 45 degrees and cloudy.  People would be walking to and from the neighborhood store, and kids would be coming home from school.

 

 

 

The bustling environment seemed perfect for the why the detectives were out and about  looking for witnesses in order to close a 2016 triple murder case.  The location might not be the best fit for the optimal place to commit a public suicide, but the very next day Suiter was scheduled to give testimony to the grand jury, time was running out.

The Plan

Keeping with the theory, Suiter is there to plan his own death (We assume unbeknownst to Bomenka). With all the activity, Suiter will have to have a series of fortunate events go his way.   BPD has a stake in selling the world on this theory that Suiter’s plan was to die in a urine soaked lot filled with broken bottles and small patches of grass.

The motive they will say is the thing.  Suiter fits the profile (more on this later).

Suicides, accurately and commonly perceived, most likely occurs in isolation. This requires some distance. So (again if Bomeka does not participate in this wildly imaginative concoction of a story), Suiter invents a reason to go behind the wall, perhaps telling Bomenka he has to go relieve himself. When fully out of view, Suiter pops off 2-3 rounds and yells, telling Bomenka to get down or stay back as a ruse.  With no one around to see him,  Suiter pulls on his own clothes to give the impression of a violent struggle. He’s a seasoned cop.  If anyone can stage a crime scene, he can.

Counting on his partner to follow the order, Suiter then takes his gun and reaches behind his head with his right hand and shoots himself, once. He survives the gunshot and is placed on life support until the next day when he is declared dead as a result of his injuries. The medical examiner discounts any speculation that the car accident en route contributed to his death.

NOTE: It’s possible if BPD goes hard with the scenario, Bomenka will be trotted out with new disturbing details that support the suicide theory.

The Motive

Selling the public on the “why” behind concocting such an elaborate hoax will be at the center of scenario of any farce BPD might trot out.  With fancy graphs, data and experts, they will insist that Det. Suiter attempted to stage his death to economically provide for his family.  There won’t be any evidence of this because they would have shared it by now.  Most likely they will point to how Suiter’s situation cozily fits with nationally recognized experts and studies on officers’ suicides.  They’ll talk about PTSD not just for the urban stresses, but they’ll link it back to his tour in Iraq.  It’ll make perfect sense they’ll argue because Suiter will check each of the boxes below:

  • The average age is 42 years old at time of suicide
  • The average time on job was 16 years of service
  • 91% of suicides were by male officers
  • Time on the job when most are most at risk was 15 to 19 years of service
  • Firearms were used in 91.5% of police suicides
  • In 83% of cases, personal problems appear prevalent prior to the suicide

The rationale will be reminiscent of the catch all predictions of a carnival fortune teller: You are seeking the love of your life.  Recently you lost someone close to you.  Something you lost will turn up soon. Yada yada yada.

The conspiracy was fed by the now infamous Thanksgiving holiday  news dump. Davis dropped a bombshell as preparation was underway for Suiter’s funeral. The day of his death, Suiter was supposed to be a federal witness against Baltimore City Police officers.  The video below for the first time discloses Suiter was scheduled to pointing the finger squarely at criminal activity within BPD.  Davis knew this, but here he said he only just found out. Once the feds he been knew, he later said he mis-remembered. This video is a beauty in  diminishing what little credibility and sympathy people were eking our for the department.

Transparency and Accountability

Up until now, first hand accounts are evasive.  Those on the scene have not provided any statements to the public.  Zero statements have been provided by officers who responded to Bomenka’s 9-1-1 call.  We haven’t even heard the call!  Some details has been provided through the media relations person and from the commissioner at the time, Kevin Davis. And even that information has not been reliable.

Dispatch audio notifying officers of the emergency was released and provides the most insight.  Other primary source material promised has not materialized like the audio of Suiter’s voice on radio. Baltimore residents aren’t likely to fall for the okey-doke.  They will demand that information be provided, especially the Body Worn Camera (BWC) footage of responding officers and the full autopsy results.

Remaining Puzzle Pieces

  • Dispatch sent officers to Bennett and Fremont and had difficulty finding the crime scene.
  • Early reports indicate that the male suspect was probably injured.
  • Medical units were advised of a second victim at the scene and aware that Suiter had been transported.
  • No details on Suiter’s accompaniment, a driver, a companion, etc when transported by car to University of Maryland Shock Trauma
  • No details on the car accident encountered en route to hospital.
  • No details on whether Suiter was conscious or if CPR or any medical performed during transport.
  • Officer’s gun and officer’s radio is back in the alley where he got hit, but Suiter gone.
  • Davis in discarded suicide altogether when asking FBI to take over the investigation
  • No shell casings observed at the scene by first responders.

The most crucial element to supporting suicide is that evidence must prove Suiter fired all the shots and there was no struggle for his gun.  This will be the complete opposite of what says said to be known facts for much of the investigation.  Davis has repeated often that  confusion reigned because officers were unsure the direction of the shots. Bomenka was delayed in providing aid because he was seeking shelter across the street.   Also, Davis insisted Suiter was involved in a violent struggle and that possibly the suspect was injured.

They have to explain why they thought the suspect was initially injured, but the casings are key.  Davis took deliberate pains to explain how the return to the scene after the autopsy gave him additional insight. Conveniently when the media cordon was lifted, officers “discovered” a shell casing in clear view of a television camera, completed with mime-quality acting.

Next Man Up – Commissioner Darryl De Sousa

Mayor Catherine Pugh announced she was terminating Kevin Davis from BPD on January 19, citing escalating violence, namely murders in the city.  She never mentioned Davis’ handling of Suiter’s case for cause or even presiding over the department during the FBI investigation that landed an entire special operations unit in the pokey. Instead, she left taxpayers on the hook for his $150,000 severence.

 

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Body language of Mayor Catherine Pugh speaks volumes in announcing her appointment to the city’s top cop.

In promoting De Sousa, Mayor Pugh admittedly has not had any lengthy or repetitive conversations with then Commissioner Davis about the investigation into Det. Suiter’s death.  Instead, she cited her impatience with “getting the numbers down.” However,  when she did  view of grainy video prompted her support of the request for the FBI to take over the investigation. The FBI declined.

In the lead up to his eventual confirmation, Commissioner De Sousa told Brian Kuebler in an exclusive interview his plans to have a new set of eyes. The independent agency is a secret, too.  When the reporter asked, very comfortably De Sousa refused to disclose any details without much pushback from the reporter.

As for his views on the death of Suiter, Commissioner Darryl De Sousa said, “I have an idea, but I’m not going to share right now.”

Showing that the more things change, the more they stay really the same.

Bennett SkyView

Continue reading “Trumped Up Charges: Convincing the Public Det Suiter’s Death Was Suicide”

Unshackling the Chains: Racists in BPD’s Recent and Distant Past

 

 

 

 

The call for disbanding the Baltimore Police Department is getting angrier and  louder.

The shouts are angry because of the illustrated disregard for the rule of law by eff the policesupposedly “law enforcement officers.”  The chorus is becoming increasingly louder  because of the incessant chirping behind maintaining the status quo by leaders. Combined, they have become an irritant – not unlike when the smoke alarm battery demands replacement.

Nothing has shown city leaders to be more tone deaf than the February 21, 2018  hearing to elevate interim Commissioner Darryl DeSousa, a 30-year product of the corrupt system to permanent status.  With a unified voice, council members are supporting the mayor’s choice chose fall behind in order to forge a path. The goal, according to Mayor Catherine Pugh is to change the narrative from the city as a national laughing-stock into what might resemble a small measure of respectability.

No council member present questioned DeSousa about the officer-involved shooting deaths of three people – when he was the young officer.  Who would know better about the pattern and practices of racial policing and excessive force and how the department’s systems addresses concerns than someone knee deep, all up in the thick of it?  The public was allowed to comment, but was not permitted to direct questions the one person who was present and could answer – DeSousa. Archaic rules designed to protect the status quo, even in unparalleled times.

Indisputably, the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) was organized primarily to maintain the status quo of viewing blacks as inferior race.  Sworn officers were hired to capture blacks thought to have escapeslave_patrold enslavement with the full support of the U.S. government under the Fugitive Slave Act. Not much has changed in the 166 years since.  A civic’s lesson isn’t required to understand the nation’s past, either recent and distant, with regard to racial injustice. So let’s start with most recent.

 

 

In 2016, the U.S. Department of Justice lambasted BPD for an atrocious display of patterns and practices of racial policing. The DOJ noted the activity was common over decades spanning a sea of commissioners, various council members and multiple mayors. Citing a long history and ingrained racist culture, the report then turned into a court order by way of a Consent Decree to rectify the disparities of illegal stops and searches of black men.

On September 18, 1850 President Filmore signed the Fugitive Slave Act. Eight days later a man appeared in New York from Baltimore with a power of attorney, claiming that James Hamlet was a slave of Mrs Brown. The New York Commissioner immediately complied. The slave was transported back to Baltimore; $800 dollars was raised by antislavery forces to buy James Hamlet’s freedom.

Discords in Disbandment Discussions

In describing the calls for disbandment, some doubters are quick to place those asking for the change to existing way out on the fringe or out of step.  The idea that an organization other than the Baltimore City Police Department has been called everything from an unrealistic fantasy to a a racially-tinged mystical tribal hoax.

David Troy, business leader and activist, in the summer of 2016 before the GTTF became a household name, wrote an op-ed in the Baltimore Sun calling for BPD disbandment. Recognizing the magnitude the Department of Justice’s blistering report on its findings after years-long investigation of the BPD, he sought to urge legislators to act promptly and swiftly. Not exactly what they’re known for.

Free of political restraints that would cloud his judgement, Troy was able to foresee two stumbling blocks that would prohibit the degree of reform the the DOJ report indicated would be needed. First, the organizational structure as it stands is not nimble enough to be responsive to making any changes recommended by the forthcoming Consent Decree. Troy writes,  “…section 16-7 of the Public Local Laws of Baltimore City prohibits the commissioner from directly firing officers below the rank of captain. This hampers the ability of the commissioner to perform one of the very tasks which may most effect the deep change required.”

Secondly, everyone is skeptical about the idea of returning control from the state because  Troy writes, “Baltimore City has a poor track record of governance of its departments and agencies.” Troy cites the city’s general inability for provide oversight for any of its agencies.

By February 2018, more voices have been added to the chorus. A reckoning is coming under the edicts of the Consent Decree. More likely than not will a civilian-led commission be seriously discussed. Some see a new organization as not an alternative, but a co-partner in running the department. For instance, Dr. Lawrence Brown, assistant professor at Morgan State University suggests reshaping the focus of “law enforcement” to instead “keeping the peace” by establishing the Baltimore Peacekeeping Authority to oversee the community-engagement aspects of the department.

Still others focus on the oversight aspect to curb potential corruption. Just after DeSousa’s hearing, Baltimore Attorney Dan Sparaco, addressed some of the concerns with dismantling BPD on MarylandMatters.org‘s website.  He points out the redresses suggested by Annapolis are ” laughably modest.” Early fixes such as audits are but a ripple in the ocean of corruption revealed by recent court trials.   Some of Sparaco’s most noteworthy ideas most likely will be included the Community Oversight Task Force (established by the Consent Decree) recommendations as part of the Monitoring Plan, due June 30, 2018.

“Baltimore needs a commission – independent from city hall, independent from the police department, accountable to the state, and fully funded by it. The commission needs full power to subpoena and review the disciplinary files of any and all police officers, any internal affairs file and any court file…It needs to determine the scope of the corruption and recommend how the department should be managed with integrity in the future.” – Dan Sparaco

 

Stale Ideas

Baltimore City Council periodically stokes stale embers knowing it will gather no spark from the Baltimore City delegation in Annapolis. One such idea that keeps being resurrected was done so recently by the highly ambitious Councilman Brandon Scott.

Working with council ally, Del. Curt Anderson (D) recently snatched back his hand and the olive branch that was in it.  He had sponsored legislation in 2017 requesting the state turn over BPD to the city Council, which  Scott advocated. Such a change would require a vote of the entire Assembly.

At his request, according the the Baltimore Sun: “the Office of the Attorney General issued a letter Friday explaining that if the police department were to become a city agency, it would no longer benefit from the “sovereign immunity” given to state agencies. This protects the police department from liability in certain legal cases.”

The mayor, Catherine Pugh (D) was not in favor of the change.

In order to bring BPD under city control, votes would be needed from representatives from as far as Cambridge on the Eastern Shore to the solid red of Western Maryland.

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Media Ambivalence

Media remains entrenched in business-as-usual by quelling voices of those seeking a brand new direction.  Instead, the paper of record relegates the discussion to its opinion and editorial pages, bastardizing innovation by citizens that’s not parented by a politician.

The role of media, growing nationally and also in Baltimore, has never been do little more than regurgitate spoon-fed soundbites or bland statements directly to the public from the desks of BPD. And that was before email. Today’s media relies heavily on electronic transmissions and rarely look officials squarely in the eye to do the public’s bidding.

On the heels of a February 2018 guilty verdict against two Baltimore City Police detectives on RICO charges including robbery and extortion, and with the stinging lack of criminal prosecutions for officers responsible for the April 2015 death of Freddie Gray, citizens have all but thrown up their hands believing that BPD is even capable of doing its job.  Not only were two officers in the Gun Trace Task Force (GTTF) found guilty and face 60 years in prison, six other GTTF squad members plead guilty and avoided trials.

Media (mostly of the social variety) has educated the public to the reality that the department is not a city agency.  Baltimore residents are less likely to redirect their ire normally spewed in the direction of the Mayor and City Council, to the Maryland General Assembly. Even if the normally disengaged Baltimore delegation to the deliberative body in Annapolis were accessible, statute changes would require votes outside of the city’s border.

Recent Past and Racial Divisions

As for the past, both recent and distant, unrest – or the threat of unrest – is the necessary ingredient it appears in spearheading change in the city.  Once need only to recall the height of Slave Rebellions in the 1840s and 50s through the Civil Rights Era of the 1960s, picking up again during Vietnam War protests in 1975 and most recently the young voices raised in the Freddy Gray uprisings of 2015.

It will be the people of the city who determine the city’s fate and the legislators in Annapolis are tasked with carrying it out. There are no visionaries in political office. City council is where all good ideas go to die.  The mayor, city council are the least equipped to change what is inescapable truth:   police are unable to police itself.

The police are powerful.  It begins with their union. A generation ago,  municipal workers went on strike and trash piled on on the street. Political pressure did not yield.  Collective bargaining is the BPD’s ace in the hole.  Once police joined in on the 1974 strike, the power dynamic shifted.

Two years later, in 1976, when the state’s political nexus was planted firmly in Baltimore and in the tight fist of Mayor William D. Schaefer, he made a power grab. No longer would Annapolis appoint the leadership of the Baltimore City Police – now only one commissioner, down from three.  Violence and street protests, as with most revolutionary actions, precipitated the shift.

Gov. Marvin Mandel reluctantly relented and awarded the power to name the Baltimore City Police Department’s commissioner to the city’s mayor.

Members of AFSCME Local 1195 Baltimore, Maryland Police Union strike in 1969.

 

 

A generation or so earliery,  BPD went through another major transformation. from a deliberative three member panel to a single authoritative commissioner.

The year was 1920, when the board of commissioners was usurped by a general. Charles D. Gaither set at the helm for 17 years from 1920-1937 as a result of his appointment by Governor Ritchie.  His father was an officer for Confederate Army.  The tenure for “The General” as he was marked by a desire for more police and speedy trial,. One could say, he was an originator of the Law and Order style of policing.

 

Birth of a Nation and a Racist Department

If racists policies within the department didn’t start with the general, he can surely be credited with embracing them unabashedly.

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As the General’s tenure was coming to a close, blacks were still forbidden to serve as officers in Baltimore, Jesse while was in Germany debunking Hitler’s theories of superiority of the “Aryan race” during the Olympics.  Progress in race relationship would move at a snail’s pace at the department.

A website dedicated to milestones in the history of the department records explains:

“Prior to 1966, African American officers were limited to foot patrols as they were barred from the use of squad cars. These officers were quarantined in rank, barred from patrolling in White neighborhoods, and would often only be given specialty assignments in positions in the Narcotics Division or as undercover plainclothes officers. Further, African American officers were the target of racial harassment from their Caucasian coworkers and African American citizens in the communities they patrolled. During this time African American officers were subject to racial slurs from white co-workers during roll call, and encountered degrading racial graffiti in the very districts/units they were assigned. During this time period, two future police commissioners of Baltimore, Bishop L. Robinson and Edward J. Tilghman were amongst Baltimore’s African American police officers.” –

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The racist history of BPD predates both World Wars, and extends further back to the Civil War. Baltimore residents, squeezed square in the middle  between ideals of the northern states and the  traditions of the south have been choosing every since.

This was the war that demanded patriots of the fledgling nation to choose sides.  It was in the run up to the war that Congress enacted the Fugitive Slave Law.

Before the spring of 1861 when the Civil War started, Baltimore was experiencing growth and prosperity as a port city with low unemployment, and consequently little crime.

“Free-born blacks together with newly manumitted, runaway, and autonomous urban slaves formed the beginnings of Baltimore’s African American community. Blacks in all situations, including a young Frederick Douglass, saw Baltimore as “an island of racial tolerance” compared to the rest of Maryland”  “(Koamoie).

A singular event helped form the condition that the Baltimore City Police Department currently faces, when looked at in isolation one clearly can see how disbandment is the only choice, and not it’s not even a radical one.

Disbandment of the BPD will finally undo the effects of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 that the outcome of the Civil War was unable to achieve. In fact, no federal or state law, movement or milestone election has corrected centuries of racial inequities reinforced by the perpetuation of the institution named the Baltimore City Police Department.  No landmark hirings, promotions or awards suggest that the department is “post racial.”

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BPD’s first black officer, Violet Hill Whyte in 1937, the year after the” General” left his helm.

The Baltimore City Police department does not address law enforcement in an equitable manner because the institution is predicated on preserving racial imbalances.

A jury unanimously saw the veracity in the argument that has roots since the it became legal to “arrest” blacks.

“…the difference between an arrest, a kidnapping, and an ambiguous area that could be labeled “arrests.” Arrests followed rules of due process that resulted in a trial. Kidnappings were the abduction of free blacks to sell on the slave market. “Arrests” were the apprehension of accused fugitive slaves without due process—no warrants, possibly a home invasion, no trial. – Matt Diggins Johns Hopkins University Press, 2017.

 

Citations

Milt Diggins, an independent scholar, is a former editor of the Cecil Historical Journal and a frequent contributor to local publications. His  Stealing Freedom Along the Mason-Dixon Line: Thomas McCreary, the Notorious Slave Catcher from Maryland.

Laura Croghan Kamoie. Review of Phillips, Christopher, Freedom’s Port: The African American Community of Baltimore, 1790-1860. H-SHEAR, H-Net Reviews. August, 1998.
URL: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=2250

Continue reading “Unshackling the Chains: Racists in BPD’s Recent and Distant Past”

The Case for Disbanding BPD

The emotions swirling around the search for a solution to the ills of Baltimore Police Department range from disillusionment to detachment.  Politicians favor the nonstarter debate of turning state control of the department over to the city. Others seek to disband BPD in the mode of Camden N.J., not knowing exactly why Camden is not a model to follow.

Simply put, Baltimore cannot do what Camden did, but not for the reasons you might think.

First though, consider this undeniable fact. We all suspect Baltimore’s Police Department is rotten to the core.  It might not be.  But in this case, perception is reality.

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Sketch drawing by Tom Chalkley of former police detective Momodu Gondo in orange jumpsuit as witness against his co-defendants, fellow police officers.

A law enforcement department requires the trust and compliance of those it serves to recognize its power. Baltimore Police has bankrupted any small reserve of goodwill that remained after the death of Freddie Gray and its subsequent “investigation.”

It has only been days since the guilty verdicts of police officers who were running a robbery, extortion and drug dealing operation – but only while in uniform. The Gun Trace Task Force cloaked as an “elite” special operations squad, instead served themselves mostly conspiring to steal overtime while committing heinous crimes.

Regrettably, a choreographed cacophony of warmed over questions from the media and canned responses from those in power, reflected none of the urgency that those awaiting the verdict expected and experienced.

“Journalists” asked:

  • “What does this mean for BPD?”
  • “How does BPD move forward after the verdicts?”
  • Are you satisfied with the verdicts?
  • Does the government expect more indictments?

People watching were asking:

  • What the fuck?
  • Why not just start over from scratch?

Disgust, Disband, Discard

After hearing in harsh detail how the department serves as a racketeering front for a criminal enterprise requires more sobering questions. The verdict from Monday, February 12th confirmed what many people have been shouting about only to have their cries fall on deaf ears.  Baltimore Police Department is a criminal enterprise.

An impartial group of 12 Marylanders:  eight white women, one Asian woman and three black men unanimously found 2 officers guilty of knowing taking part in a conspiracy to using their power as membership in the Baltimore City Police Department to carry out their crimes.  The jury was pulled from the state and not merely from Baltimore City.

Let’s not forget that six other officers told a judge they are guilty and decided to forgo any pretense of a trial.  These officers had shown up for work on the day they were arrested. They were not on desk duty as punishment for any bad behavior.  These officers were not home, suspended while complaints were being investigated.  They were armed with guns and unfettered power up until the second the feds stepped in.

The jury has spoken: Baltimore Police Department cannot police itself.

A House Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand

While President Abraham Lincoln coined the phrase in 1858 during his campaign, it bears remembering that it was in 1860 that Maryland took over the Baltimore Police Department with the help of a radical group of nationalists. Most will recall that Baltimore was a stronghold for the Union, but the state of Maryland was generally considered a Confederate sympathizer.

” Dear Maryland General Assembly, the Civil War is over, and the North won. It’s time to give Baltimore its police department back.” – Councilman Brandon Scott

-Baltimore Sun OP-ED February 28, 2017

The Know-Nothing Party, with it’s “America First” rally cries captured only but a single state, Maryland, with it’s presidential push. It is certainly time to be on the right side of history and reject the sole success of the xenophobic party (the shame of Maryland) and return control of the state’s most diverse city to the people who live here.

The most radical proposal to date simply does not go far enough.  There have been calls to move control from the state legislature to Baltimore City Council. Impassioned activists spoke to city council in 2016.  However, House Bill 1504 designed to do just that, died in committee in March 2017.

In support of the bill, Baltimore City Councilman Brandon Scott and Maryland State Delegate Curt Anderson penned an editorial pointing out the “insanity of the Baltimore Police Department being a state agency” in announcing legislation designed to put the department under the city’s control. This was the concern before it was confirmed the BPD was acting as a front for an organized crime syndicate.

Camden is not a Model City

Reorganizing Baltimore Police by disbanding the existing structure and creating a new citizen-led organization has no model to follow.  Police departments have disband due to cost and duplication of services, resulting in a consolidation.

The City of Camden is often brought up by media as a praiseworthy example of a high crime area that turned itself around by disbanding its police.  But for many reasons, it is not a model to be used for Baltimore.  Camden City Police department for all intents and purposes was folded into an existing agency, the Camden County Police Department.

 

The City of Camden along with others in the county such as Bellmawr, Cherry Hill, Collinswood, Haddon Township and Gloucester Township all are municipalities and have had their own police departments since about 1920s.  Most disbands in NJ is a result of consolidation due to costs of very small departments.

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Politically, state officials had wrestled all power from the city.  In a party tug of war, newly elected Republican Governor Chris Christie was on the surface at least, battling with South Jersey political bosses.  Economic strife impacted Camden’s descisions and similar downturns had Atlantic City considering the same.

An important distinction for Baltimore, that it is an independent municipality and is not seated within a county  (such as being a part of Baltimore County), which  makes it unique.  The city cannot simply use Camden as it model, as it has no county police force to absorb it.

Other factors make what Camden did not comparable to Baltimore, not the least of which are wide variations in population size, budget, demands, not to mention political will to merge BPD even with either Baltimore County Police or Maryland State Police.

The Way Forward

Reaction to the verdicts should be prioritized as follows:

  1. The people
  2. The state legislature
  3. The governor
  4. The mayor
  5. The police commissioner

The people’s voice must be heard. Before any decision is made, and before the mayor and other politicians toss ideas in the trash, recognition of the harm police have done would show respect to the victims.  It might also provide a path forward.

A leader would first listen to the people.  Go to them. Don’t ask them to come to you.  Ask what kind of policing they want to see.  If it’s a 12 or 24 member commission of civilians that run the department, then make it happen. If it’s keeping the department, but turning its reigns over to Baltimore City Council, then work tirelessly to get it done. Both Governor Larry Hogan and Mayor Catherine Pugh must show clear leadership in the most important aspect of their position: public safety.

“The legislature’s control over the Baltimore Police Department is an anachronism that serves no purpose at a time when city residents are demanding accountability and rapid reform. Whether the remedy involves a passing a law clarifying the City Council’s authority to legislate on police matters or taking the department out of the state’s purview altogether, the situation needs to change.”

Baltimore Sun Editorial September 17, 2016

One way forward is to take advantage of the powers contained in the entity created by the U.S. Department of Justice’s investigation resulting in a Consent Decree.  This court order establishes the Community Oversight Task Force (COTF) which is charged with making recommendations to ensure community input as the department includes civilian oversight into its reform process.

The COTF is expected to bring forth its recommendations by March 2018, in time to communicate with the community and make changes before it has to submit its report to the court in June 2018.

Consider that the work the committee has put forth largely took place in 2017, well before the trial and subsequent verdicts.  It likely will focus on returning power and control of BPD to the city, revising the Law Enforcement Officer’s Bill of Rights (LEOBR), and creating an oversight mechanism to hear and rule on citizen complaints.

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From the Department of Justice Consent Decree with Baltimore City Police Department

In short, the COTF recommendations will be reactionary and more importantly likely ignored or discarded.  It’s reactionary mostly because of timing.  Had this group of hard working citizens convened the day after the GTTF trial, they might be more amenable to the recommending disbanding.   It’s not too late though, armed a new vision members could take a new approach.  COTF could pull a Glenn Close and drop the equivalent of the dead rabbit in the state’s boiling pot.

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Why ignored?  It will ask for investigatory powers and the staff to do it.  It will distance itself from the existing Citizen Review Board (CRB) that Del. Jill Carter has artfully resuscitated life into.  It will ask for things that can be shot down like ducks in a row.  Subpoena powers that come with exorbitant costs, even if awarded cannot be utilized without a trained staff. Any substantive changes to LEOBR will fall on deaf ears.

The unions negotiating with Baltimore Police simply will not have it. But the union doesn’t have an existing agreement with the yet to be formed Baltimore Police Commission.  Expect immediate and harsh pushback of all FOPs in the state if there is an iota of a chance there is political backing of disbanding for Baltimore.

Baltimore isn’t the first entity in Maryland that suffered from blistering reports of misconduct, mismanagement and racial profiling.

In 2001, a task force addressed many of the same problems within the Prince George’s County Police Department. Crime in PG county made national headline news in the 1990s resulting in a 2004 Consent Decree with the Department of Justice.  Three guesses as to what the initial barrier to reform was in their report.  And you can guess if they are still waiting.

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Prince George’s County Task Force Recommendation