Feed on Posts or Comments 23 January 2018

Reforming Maryland admin on 11 May 2015 08:25 pm

A Recovering Baltimore City Needs The Strict Rule of Law — Now More Than Ever!

By Contributor Jeff Levin** 

Last week, Len Lazarick, editor and publisher of MarylandReporter.com posted a brief essay, entitled, “Political prosecution of police helps restore order in Baltimore,” in which he praised the Baltimore City state’s attorney’s “calculated political decision to prosecute six” police officers.

Declared Lazarick: “you have to wonder what kind of weekend Baltimore would have had if she” had not.

If you are like me and thought on first reading that the editor could not have meant what he seems to be saying, Lazarick doubles down in the rest of his post on the prosecutor’s wisdom of responding positively to the message of the rioters and concludes:

“Mosby [the state’s attorney] may have ruined the careers of six cops who may or may not be guilty of a crime. But she certainly restored the peace of Baltimore this weekend, and perhaps moved the city and its police force toward a better and more balanced relationship.”

How does editor Lazarick respond to a commenter’s objection that prominent legal scholar, Alan Dershowitz, says prosecutors are not supposed to do political prosecutions ?

“I sincerely doubt Dershowitz’s position is something so simplistic.”

Mr. Editor, here are some points you have overlooked:

  • Even if we simplistic people set aside our quaint conceptions of justice and examine your “ends justify the means” argument on its face, State’s Attorney Mosby and Baltimore City cannot achieve “peace” with means that reward lawbreaking.
  • When you reward mass lawbreaking you create the incentive for more lawbreaking whenever the mob doesn’t get what it wants. What happens if some of the charges are dismissed by law abiding judges or juries acquit on some or all of the charges?
  • If in the unlikely event Mosby prevails on all charges all the way through the Supreme Court, what happens the next time the mob is unhappy about anything? What happens the next time a Baltimore police officer of any color harms a black person in the course of his police work?
  • The grievance against the perceived malfeasance of the police had nothing to do with the looting and burning of private businesses and homes. Many of the Mondawmin Mall looters were matrons who drove up to the door in late model cars and minivans with sun roofs.
  • Baltimore City has a history of looting – not too many years ago, the precipitating event was a fall ice storm that made vehicular travel impossible for about 45 minutes during rush hour. As soon as word got out that the police could not respond, looting began in the same area as the recent events.
  • What viewers from all over our country and the world saw was looting and destruction of property in close vicinity to large numbers of police: sworn officers who made no attempt – apparently under orders from the mayor and police chief – to stop the criminal acts.
  • Rational people and businesses everywhere will have concluded that if you get in trouble in Baltimore City, you are on your own, and many of them will have placed Baltimore very far down on their list of places to visit or invest in or live.
  • State’s Attorney Mosby’s bizarre charges make future police crime intervention more difficult. While many of us can comprehend the manslaughter counts, the assault and false imprisonment charges appear to be based on nothing more than, according to Mosby, the police may have mistakenly arrested Freddie Gray based on what they discovered after they had already forcibly detained him.
  • Any police officer who fears prosecution for making a good faith mistake is much less likely to pursue fleeing suspects than before. Criminals will be quick to figure out this new reluctance to apprehend them and act accordingly. There has already been a substantial violent crime increase: see the Baltimore Sun last Saturday — “Violence surges as Baltimore police officers feel hesitant”.
  • The primary victims of an increase in Baltimore City’s already high violent crime rate will be the ordinary residents of neighborhoods like Gray’s Sandtown-Winchester, but all of Baltimore City’s citizens and businesses will pay a steep price.
  • The larger context of the horrific events of the past several weeks is the longstanding, very high Baltimore City violent crime rate. Police everywhere have dangerous jobs, but in Baltimore City, they have especially dangerous jobs that have forced them to interact with and confront criminals repeatedly. This is not work that creates warm feelings toward the police among the confronted and the families of the confronted. Freddie Gray apparently was a small time pusher who had had many such confrontations. Police officers, like all humans, are imperfect and err, both intentionally and unintentionally.
  • State’s Attorney Mosby and the mayor and the police chief had a chance to stand up to the mob, explain the facts of life to it, and forcibly deter the violence. In due course, Mosby could have issued a sound indictment that explained clearly to conscientious police officers what avoidable bad behavior would not be tolerated. Instead, they incentivized looting and burning and simultaneously confused the police about what they would and would not be criminally liable for.
  • The mayor’s accepted invitation to the U. S. Department of Justice to study Baltimore’s police department will increase exponentially officers’ reluctance to confront criminals.

Lost conventions, higher property insurance rates, and higher municipal bond interest rates are already in the cards for Baltimore City’s citizens, businesses and government. The increasing disintegration of public order owing to police officers’ confusion about how to do their jobs without getting indicted will cause more and more citizens, customers, and businesses to “vote with their feet” and set out for safer pastures. And a future bankruptcy for Baltimore City is not out of question.

** Jeff Levin has law and business degrees from Columbia University. He practiced labor law in Baltimore until his father’s sudden death in 1975 when he began managing his family’s retail business in Pikesville, Maryland until its closing in 2012. While there, he was a founding member of the reconstituted Pikesville Chamber of Commerce, as well as the Pikesville Community Growth Corporation. Levin served as the Chamber’s president from 1981-1983 and the Growth Corporation’s president from 1985-1989. He is a long-time board member of the Maryland Taxpayers Association and a regular at the Maryland Thursday Meeting.

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