11 July 2013

Mayor's Big Announcement A Lackluster Dud

PR Party Package Continues To Be Long On Symbolism, Short On Substance

By A.F. James MacArthur Ph.A.L.
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Police Commissioner 
Anthony Batts, both deeply concerned about crime and violence in the city.
The 50 shootings and 21 homicides since 21 June, has Baltimore seeming more like a battleground than a city where 10,000 new families might move to. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake appears struggling
to regain public confidence among war-weary citizens. The latest installment of her paper thin, obviously transparent, damage control public relations campaign, designed to simulate an action plan, has become increasingly underwhelming.

After nearly 24 hours of anticipation, the public having been told by the mayor to expect an "important major announcement" in the fight on crime, the media was treated to a carefully choreographed press conference, hardly living up to expectations. Another soundbite, a photo-op event.

On stage was Rawlings-Blake, joined by Baltimore State's Attorney Gregg Bernstein, Police Commissioner Anthony Batts, and even U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein got in on the action.

As bullets fly and bodies drop, the three B's; Blake, Batts and Bernstein did their best to convince us, that somehow taking a couple city prosecutors and letting them work with federal prosecutors will stem the incessant flow of blood in the streets.

Never mind the over 40,000 outstanding warrants and a warrant task force made up of about a dozen guys, two "new" prosecutors are supposed to save the day.

What They're Not Telling You

With Baltimore Police having such a dismal and embarrassing clearance rate for homicide, and few suspects for most murders, much less actual arrests, what difference would having powerful persecutors make? You don't have to be a legal scholar to know in order for a prosecutor to try a case, there must be an indicted defendant. In this area, Baltimore Police have simply not produced very well.

Each passing year sees the vast majority of our murders (well over 50%!) go totally unsolved. That's a lot of killers on the loose.

Furthermore, of the arrests made, federal officials typically have very little interest, except for a very small percentage that qualify with internal guidelines on case selection. Federal prosecutors tend to prefer guaranteed, slam dunk convictions.

Many cases brought to trial in Baltimore are so rife with issues, fed prosecutors, who have the luxury of picking and choosing cases, want nothing to do with them. Between shoddy evidence, lack of witnesses, poorly written police reports, questionable practices, including rampant civil rights violations and behavior contrary to constitutional conduct by the cops, the cases being brought by Baltimore Police are a bit below textbook perfection.

Snitches Get Stitches

Again we heard from officials a need for increased community cooperation. This, as Batts tried to downplay one of the city's most recent homicide victims having done just that, and possibly paying a high price for his cooperating

Dwayne Robinson Webb was killed, along with his sister Natasha Bates, in broad daylight yesterday, on the unit block of N. Fulton Ave. They were relaxing at their West Baltimore home. He'd cooperated with police and prosecutors, after picking out of a lineup, a man who'd shot him last year, only two blocks away. Now he's dead.

When asked if the killing was retaliation, avoiding a direct yes or no answer, Batt's did his best to deflect, stating: “It scares other people [from cooperating], and we don't know if that's actually what took place.” No mention was made of how shifting two prosecutors could have prevented the bloodshed.

Most readers of The Baltimore Spectator are well aware of the shameful track record of protecting witnesses in Baltimore (for a good case study, see Carl Lackl). To ask for increased citizen participation without solid promises of better protection, courtesy and cooperation coming from police, is nothing but empty, meaningless -- not to mention dangerous -- rhetoric.

Nothing New

Many media outlets got today's announcement wrong, stating two "new" prosecutors were being added to the federal ranks responsible for Baltimore city. Reality rings a bit different.

In essence all that's happening is two current city prosecutors will be deputized and detailed to work in cooperation with Rosensteins office. At that level, the direct contribution this will make to reducing ongoing street level violence is murky at best. But of course attempt was made to portray this as a reactive response having immediate tangible impact..

According to The Baltimore Sun's Justin Fenton, the move was approved by the mayor and a part of the budget for some time. Despite the timing of today's announcement and best efforts being made to convince otherwise, it was not in response to the summer crime wave and recent violence.

There's only so many "safety walks" these guys can go on before the repeating scenes, night after night on the news starts getting old and more people see through it. They had to do something different to show "concern," but action that is going beyond demonstrations done for show is desperately needed.

The call continues for real and impactful strategy. No doubt, reducing crime is a complicated, complex affair, but endless staged events seems sadly missing the mark in a city that continues to be held under siege by a rising tide of violence and mayhem.

After an unconstitutional imprisonment lasting 6 months, denied bail, tortured, assaulted and forced to endure inhumane conditions in the notorious Baltimore City Detention Center, perennial gadfly A.F. James MacArthur, the original independent, established leader in on-scene, feet-on-the-street, Baltimore crime and emergency incident reporting  emerged undaunted and unafraid. Baltimore's premier independent crime correspondent and street reporter is a multimedia journalist who also covers urban decay and public corruption. Email MacArthurMedia@gmail.com@BaltoSpectator on twitterSpreaker web radioBlogTalk RadioBaltimore Spectator on Facebook,YouTube channel



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