A recent article in the Baltimore Sun by Justin Fenton deserves an award for being a masterpiece of misdirection. In a story that couldn't have been written any better if it were commissioned by a public relations agency for the police department, Fenton single-handedly manages to draw attention away from very serious criminal transgressions alleged to have been committed by members of the Baltimore Police Department.
Less than a week ago, two Baltimore Police Department officers, including a sergeant, were criminally charged by the Baltimore City States Attorney. In the short time since charges were issued, the transgressions have been all but blotted out off the public consciousness. This is a department that is constantly under fire, having numerous investigations of wrong doing underway at any given time. For responsible media to bury this story is a grave crime upon the citizens of this city unto itself.
How many people remember it's been a month since Anthony Anderson died in police custody? His death was ruled homicide, yet there hasn't been a single charge against any involved officers. Are the powers that be just hoping to lay low and sit this one out till the public has forgotten and moved on to other topics?
|Former residence of Police Commissioner Frederick Bealefeld|
There were no statements of concern or outrage from Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. City Council President Jack Young, a wannabe peoples champion, uttered not a single word. Even freshman city councilman Brandon Scott, Vice Chair of the Public Safety Committee, fell strangely silent when these two officers were charged with serious criminal misconduct. Yet we see these same city legislators and a whole cast of characters falling for a slight-of -hand parlor trick that would impress Harry Houdini.
The article regarding "Special Police" in Baltimore City and the State of Maryland has created a lot of commotion. It has garnered more attention over perceived abuse, than the mortally serious, actual incident of a police custody homicide.
Within 24 hours of it's publication, the piece garnered attention of numerous state and city legislators, and other local media. Justin Fenton even found himself as a guest on the popular afternoon news radio program, Maryland News Now, heard on WBAL.
These same legislators have said nothing of the shameful, regrettable, questionable death of Mr. Anderson, who was killed in front of his family no less. We also know Baltimore Police claimed in their report, Anderson's death was caused by choking on drugs he ingested. A false claim soundly refuted by the medical examiner. Did someone say attempted cover up?
Suddenly with the article on Special Police, there's great concern about "renegades" running around the city, "jacking people up" pretending to be police. To be sure, the carefully crafted, exceedingly long scroll, certainly painted a scary picture. But was the article and it's assertions accurate?
It draws no comparison to the notoriously besmeared reputation of the Baltimore Police Department and it's many documented abuses. Instead, the story leads the reader to believe the handful of Special Police Officers (SPO) are a part of some huge problem, which in reality is virtually non existent and little more than a concoction of an over active imagination.
What follows is a fact check on the article published Sunday, entitled: State, city program gives security guards police powers, written by Justin Fenton. The reader is forewarned, this is a lengthy piece. The original article is quite exhaustive, and as such, a thorough fact check will be proportionately commensurate.
The very title is deceptive on its face. "Security guards" do not have police powers. If an officer has "police powers" then he is not a "security guard." He or she would be properly categorized under law as a "Special Police Officer."
A careful inspection of the article reveals its entire assertion is based on just a few of isolated incidents. They're hardly indicative of a larger problem. The reader is drawn into a subterfuge of seeming rampant abuse by SPO's.
Fenton opens with a troublesome tale of one Christopher Dukes, who by all accounts was a victim of overzealous police wanna-be's.
In truth, much of the article continues to refer to Mr. Dukes and a few other incidents in a revolving manner, falsely giving the impression of problems being larger than they are in reality. This repetitive technique is a common journalism practice when a writer is attempting to strongly persuade, but lacking adequate factual foundation.
Fenton writes "some of the officers have also faced lawsuits and resident complaints, leading city police to re-evaluate whether to continue the program." But this is not unique to Special Police. Police departments are sued and receive citizen complaints all the time. What Fenton failed to point out is, in most cases of abuse of power or misconduct, the courts and the law allow little provision for a citizen with a grievance to pursue an individual police officer working for the city.
Special Police on the other hand, while having authority to exercise some police powers, have no special legal protection under the law, unlike their "real police" counterparts. The individual officers can have criminal charges taken out against them like any other citizen. They can be sued in civil court, unlike police officers working for the city.
Police officers in Baltimore have a powerful union shielding them from all sorts of flak from a citizen who feels they've been wronged. A city cop can even shoot and kill a citizen and not have to give a statement for several days due to protections the union has carved out. Special Police have no such immunity.
Many would be surprised to know there's an actual "Officers Bill of Rights" for police officers, which numerous critics claim is nearly akin to a decree placing officers above the law.
The entire story written by Fenton is built on two lawsuits; one from residents of Cherry Hill, and another vaguely referenced suit originating somewhere in Northeast Baltimore. Fenton fails to provide any specifics on the latter.
Numerous security professionals with law enforcement backgrounds are quoted and referenced. The article asserts worries about "police powers being given to people without proper training and supervision." Naturally the assumption is, these experienced lawmen are concerned for public safety. Or are they?
Does anyone really believe John's Hopkins, the largest employer of SPO's in the city is just tossing out a bunch of cowboys on the streets with guns, badges and no training? Of course, not one single complaint was cited against them in the article.
The problems appears to exist with a couple of now mostly defunct security operations, and is no longer much of an issue, but you would have to read many paragraphs in before you learn this.
It should be noted, the security business is highly competitive and to be able to corner a market with a government created, legislation-enforced monopoly, from easily swayed politicians is the ultimate dream for eager business owners in a regulated industry. The question is never even raised that these "concerns" could simply be an attempt by owners of some of these businesses to rub out competition under the guise of concern for the public good.
At times Fenton seems to have glaring contradictions throughout, with sufficient space in between that they appear invisible to the untrained eye. Larry S. Davidson Sr., a retired Baltimore officer who runs a security company is quoted as saying "Nobody is overseeing them." This is actually not true and is largely a play on semantics.
Further in the story there's a different quote that says "state police are automatically notified when a special police officer or security guard is arrested and can send an auditor out to review complaints..." This line doesn't exactly fit in with the "no oversight" refrain, repetitively blurted by many with competing business interests used as sources for the article.
In another section, the author writes the Baltimore Police Department has concerns of "attempts by some to impersonate special police officers with counterfeit badges or confusing uniforms and vehicles," and that this is a reason they're considering discontinuing issuing the licenses. While it should seem obvious, these are already outright criminal offenses with plenty of laws on the books concerning them. Simple enforcement of the law on a case by case basis, would deal with the issue with no need to discontinue an entire program, of issuing licenses for what is in truth, a notably minuscule rate of incidence.
Considering how many former police officers own security companies, could these former officers be using their contacts and connections within the police department to lobby for making things harder for their competitors? Special police have to be paid more, and if they're no longer permitted, owners of security companies would be able to lock in their current security staff at lower wages. The possibility of moving up to a higher level would be eliminated if the licensing were no longer granted.
It's notable the article mentions the Maryland State Police has no intentions of reconsidering issuing the licenses. The reader should ask why? Could it be this elite law enforcement agency has seen no evidence of sufficient abuse warranting any drastic action?
|Sometimes people with agendas conceal their true intentions.|
Cleverly placed at a point past where most readers are able to maintain peak attention, the author decides to tell you that SPO's aren't all that bad, and actually serve a useful purpose in a city filled with crime and an overworked police department:
"The special police and security guards working in the city help cover areas where city police cannot be, and their observations can provide useful intelligence. In addition to arrest powers, special police officers can have people committed to mental institutions and take other actions reserved for police, including searching people. They can carry guns, but only if they have the same permits required for other residents."
A convenient fact is omitted here. Gun carry permits are extremely difficult to obtain in Maryland and are handed out in very small numbers. Furthermore, certified training by a qualified, licensed gun instructor is among the requirements. This is what Fenton considers "no training required."
In the interest of consideration to the reader, due to length, the remainder of the original Baltimore Sun article will be parsed and analyzed in a second part to be published tomorrow.
A.F. James MacArthur, while never a municipal "police officer", has formerly been issued limited power of arrest & was employed, mostly on a contractual basis, by a variety of private, corporate, municipal and federal entities in a law enforcement and investigative capacity. He may be reached at 410-205-NEWS (6397) voice or text message, MacArthurMedia@gmail.com, and followed on numerous social media, including: @BaltoSpectator on twitter , Spreaker web radio, BlogTalk Radio, Baltimore Spectator on Facebook,YouTube channel