Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Batts Fired, Deputy in Charge

Kevin Davis, ol whatshername
Decked out in a serious and seriously rack-hugging suit jacket, SRB announced today that she'd gone and fired her hand-picked commissioner Batts and that his deputy, one Kevin Davis, was now in charge.

Which is momentarily startling but not really shocking - the litany of awful since April 27 includes:
    That's in-credible!
  • The FOP's own report finding that the "credible threat" police cited preceding the riots on April 27 when they built up their street presence, urged major businesses to close, shut down metro and bus service and surrounded Frederick Douglass kids in the Mondawmin parking lot was, in fact, not "credible" in the least:
"On April 27, 2015, the commanding officer of the Criminal Intelligence Section was deployed as a commander of a Mobile Field Force to Mondawmin Mall ... work in this situation would have been better spent investigating and analyzing the 'purge' information that was received."
  • Also it turns out that it wasn't a tounge-flub at all when the mayor said she "gave those who wished to destroy space to do that as well" -- the FOP reported that officers were indeed told at roll call that day to "the Baltimore Police Department would not respond until they [the protestors] burned, looted, and destroyed the city so that it would show that the rioters were forcing our hand." Charming!
And the final straw: an earnest 20-something white guy got mugged for his bike and wrote an op-ed about it published in the Sun, revealing to both citizens and apparently the police spokesman* and City Councilman Brandon Scott that police stations in two of the worst districts (South and Southwest) are closed, as in doors locked, from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m nightly. This was followed by tales of officers' unprofessionalism, mass quittings and 24-hour-shifts surging on Reddit, and the shit show was somehow made even worse when the "most professional" of the officers the victim dealt with going on Facebook and blaming him for biking "in the dark" when he wasn't.

Update:
Fenton has a good summation of Batts' career.*
Batts was brought in from Oakland to be a change agent. What he brought: California-style riots to Baltimore, with the "space to destroy" and "show[ing] that the rioters were forcing our hand."
Also from the FOP report:
Batts used tactics in Oakland that he denies using in Baltimore. 'We allowed the protesters to start breaking into Foot Locker. They broke into Foot Locker and different places. But we had to do that because we didn’t want to look like this was a police action, where we were responding too soon. Then we had a very coordinated plan. It took us time to just kind of corral them, bring them in, and take them to jail. We didn’t have any complaints whatsoever, and the citizens said we did a good job.'


Notable: Kevin Davis, who called Batts a "true reform commissioner" himself "had a long career in Prince George's County, where he helped police emerge from federal oversight related to officers' use of force.*"

Dixon, anyone?

Monday, May 18, 2015

'Let Them Drink Coconut Water'

Hot on the heels of flaming riots, SRB's administration has cut water to 1,600 homes.* Water has not been cut to any delinquent businesses. Businesses owe more than 1/3rd of the tab.

Officer Vincent Cosom will spend 6 months in jail for that bus-stop beating that went viral.


Two men and three women were shot on N. Broadway Saturday.

Hey Serial fans, the Court of Special Appeals has granted Adnan Sayed's wish and remanded his case to Baltimore city Circuit Court to rule on a post-conviction proceeding. Court docs here

Crazy home invasion on Campus View Drive in Towson (so victims were students?) Three men and a woman were tied up by two perps-- Demencio Wilson and David Thompson-- demanding drugs and money, one of the victims jumped out a 2nd-story window and got help, perps were caught at the scene.

Jason T. Weinstein-- formerly Rod J. Rosenstein's right-hand guy with the Feds, prosecutor of Ed Norris and "Itchy Man,"  left to work for Holder's office, took the fall for Fast n Furious, was vindicated, decamped to D.C., now a private attorney banking Bitcoin bucks -- is in the Sunpapers comparing the Freddie Gray case to the Duke Lacrosse case,* Marilyn Mosby to Mike Nifong, and urging her to not rush an indictment and top drop false imprisonment charges for officers.
JTW
    So what is the deal with that knife? Legal or illegal? Where is it? Who has it? Anyone? Anyone? Said/reported/opined Page Croyder:*
 "Ms. Mosby was so hasty it appears she locked up two completely innocent officers.  She charged Freddie Gray’s arresting officers with “false imprisonment” because she said the knife that Gray had on him was legal.  In fact, as The Sun reported, the Police Task Force found it to be illegal after all.  It was Ms. Mosby who had no probable cause to lock the arresting officers up, an injustice she could have easily avoided by taking her time."

Friday, May 15, 2015

Red State Maryland

90 homicides in 2015, 65 homicides at this time in 2014, increase of 38.5%.

Is it normal that the State's Attorney filed charges agains the officers in the Freddie Gray case before the ME ruled the death a homicide?

True story.
Bills signed by Gov Hogan include making use of recording devices legal; requiring police to keep demographic records info on who they stop; requiring police to keep records of who they kill/hospitalize; expanding the reach of the (utterly ineffectual) Civilian Review Board..

Stadium Lounge in Waverly shut down 6 months for illegal gambling. License owner's lawyer is named Frank Boozer.

Mikvah-vouyeur rabbi to be sentenced today*


Monday, May 11, 2015

Post -Riot Blame Game/That Woman Is On Drugs

Hogan's office and aide Keiffer Mitchell said they tried to reach SRB on April 27 from 3:30 to 6 p.m. to get her permission to activate National Guard troops as the riots began at Mondawmin, but she didn't pick up the phone. From the WaPo:
At 2:30 p.m., Drew Vetter, director of legislative affairs for the Baltimore police, e-mailed members of the City Council and state legislators representing the city about a “credible gang threat against officers” and “possible violent activity” at Mondawmin Mall and downtown. ... After 3 p.m., Gregory E. Thornton, Baltimore’s schools chief, headed for the mall, only to be turned back by police who were blocking the streets. Thornton went to City Hall and told the mayor what he had see. ... 
By [3 p.m. Monday April 27], Mitchell had arrived at City Hall, having been ordered by Hogan to “be where the mayor is.” A former Baltimore City Council member who lives a mile from Mondawmin, Mitchell has known Rawlings-Blake since middle school. His uncle, as a state senator, had shown then-Gov. Spiro T. Agnew around Baltimore after the riots that followed the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in 1968. That was the last time the National Guard had been called in.  ...  
About 6:45 p.m., the mayor traveled from police headquarters to the Emergency Operations Center, where her cabinet was waiting, as were Mitchell and several City Council members. ... Even though the troops had been activated, the mayor waited an additional 75 minutes to inform the public.“She finally made that call, and we immediately took action,” he said. The mayor, when told of Hogan’s remarks, “was pissed off, because she viewed it as the governor politicizing this,” said Harris, her spokesman, adding that the two leaders had talked more than once that afternoon. “She thought it was a rookie move. And you can quote me on that.”
But the billion-dollar questions:


Witnesses say it took 4-30 minutes for kids to start throwing bricks and bottles at police.

And who/what were police supposed to be protecting on April 27? Not, apparently, Mondawmin mall, where looters were so brazen they loaded clothes and shoes into their trunks by the armful all afternoon and into dark. Or any of the businesses around Pennsylvania and North Avenue.

And who ordered/strongly suggested the shutdown of downtown businesses in the middle of the day, Batts? Did he consult with SRB at all? And why wasn't this suggestion issued directly from the Mayor to all downtown employees instead of what appears to have been communique directly to the biggest businesses? We didn't from the Mayor or Batts himself until late Monday night.

That Woman. Drugs.
Here's my theory of what started the riots: That Woman Is On Drugs. That Woman = Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, of course, and by Drugs I mean something or some combo that's sedating and also an appetite suppressant.  Vyvanse and Ambien? Strattera and espresso? Pot n Percocet? She seems spaced out to the gills every time she's on TV.

And with SRB MIA/apathetic or knowledgeably on board with what Batts felt was a pressing threat, wanting to prove to Hogan and whomever that Baltimore could handle its own business, faced with plunging morale within the department as the threat of body cameras and accountability seeming a real possibility for the first time, Batts dealt with the stress the only way he knew how, like a hammer looking for a nail. 

That's my theory.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Shit Hits Fan

First of all, the fire department would like to assure you that the massive fire from the senior center was not related to the rioting last night.

However, the burning and looting at the CVS and the rioters who cut the the fire department's hose certainly was.
And just because that guy is walking away from a police van does not mean he was the one who set it on fire.  Though those people at Mondawmin loading racks of clothes into their trunks are definitely guilty.



But heroes emerged, like the man who danced on top of a box truck to Michael Jackson, the (different?) v talented Michael Jackson impersonator who danced to "Beat It" and the mom who saw her son rioting on TV and ran out and beat him. Yes, even CNN concedes, "A few people tried to stop the unrest," including Vietnam vet Robert Valentine, who told young people to go away and told CNN,
"I've seen more than all this. This here is not relevant need to have their butts at home, viewing this with their families, studying and doing something with their life. They do not respect this young man's death. Their mom and daddy done lost a child. I am very pissed. .. I love my country, I love my charm city."
The riots ignited at the conclusion of Freddie Gray's funeral, a high and solemn-yet-firey event attended by Gray's family, including his mum, twin sister Fredricka, sister Carolina, stepfather; White House officials, Eric Garner's family; an all-star show of orators:

  • Jesse Jackson - "all of our sons are at risk .. police wagon became a tomb ... he is more than a citizen, a martyr. ...go out and march, and march and call his name"
  • Scruffy, tie-less Billy Murphy - "this is like a bad marriage, but we're not interested in divorce"
  • Jamal Bryant - "he was a threat because he was man enough to look somebody in the eye .. they're used to black men with their head bowed down low, their spirit broken. .. but he stopped running"
  • Elijah Cummings [tears]

And then at around 11:30 a.m. police claimed a "credible threat" of talks of gangs targeting police and "purge" on social media. As we were later to discover,  apparently a guy said on Facebook:
"We gonna unify, you got Bloods, Crips, Muslims, BGF, you got everybody out here, you ain't never see it like this before. Everybody together just to go against these pigs" 
So downtown schools and businesses then began to close starting at around 2 p.m., including UMAB, T. Rowe Price and Legg Mason. But at the end of the funeral, mourners rolled out, protestors converged, students from schools including Frederick Douglass near Mondawmin spilled into the streets. "outsiders" including press, national groups like the Crips, Bloods and Nation of Islam took to the streets, and on the East side Dunbar students near Hopkins Hospital hit the bricks.

And the mayor made good on her quip from last week about allowing civilians on the streets "space to destroy." Indeed, police held back, not just at Mondawmin and with Dunbar students but as North Avenue and the CVS were smashed and burned, until the men started cutting the fire hose. And at some point the police claimed someone shot at them, and boys and men definitely threw rocks and bricks. And 144 burnt cars.

Tuesday city schools were closed, and Tuesday morning the National Guard rolled in. City private schools were open, but sports were cancelled, and one school decided at 1:10 to close at 1:30 out of fears of .... no one is sure what, exactly.

But no fatalities that we know of yet.




At the moment Baltimore is on the front page of the BBC News, and thousands of troopers have been deployed. Hogan is moving his office to take over from Stephanie, who is clearly overwhelmed (I miss Sheila Dixon, she got stuff done).

A warm, clear and sunny day, the cloying sweet smell of burnt lead-painted wood dominates the air, with pockets of burnt rubber, sulphur and plastics.




Thursday, April 23, 2015

#FreddieGray

When I first saw the video of slack-legged Freddie Gray put in the back of a police van on a local news station site I didn't even pause to Facebook. Injuries in custody, it's right there in my most recent post, how common it is:
"An ACLU report said that 109 people in Maryland died after police encounters between 2010 and 2014."  $5.7 million in payouts in just four years
These incidents happen every few days in the city. 
A few recapped by the Atlantic:
Victims include a 15-year-old boy riding a dirt bike, a 26-year-old pregnant accountant who had witnessed a beating, a 50-year-old woman selling church raffle tickets, a 65-year-old church deacon rolling a cigarette and an 87-year-old grandmother aiding her wounded grandson. Those cases detail a frightful human toll. Officers have battered dozens of residents who suffered broken bones — jaws, noses, arms, legs, ankles — head trauma, organ failure, and even death, coming during questionable arrests. Some residents were beaten while handcuffed; others were thrown to the pavement.

A week later police still don't have an explanation as to why he was stopped in the first place. And that's not unusual. But a DOJ probe and CNN descending? Unusual.

Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Walter Scott, and now Freddie Gray, and long-neglected Baltimore, getting Malaysian-plane levels of attention.

Gray, too, is an innocent victim, young, healthy.  The police's only given reason for stopping him is that he had a knife in his pocket. Ans while it's true certain kinds of knives, concealed switchblades and Bowie knives, are illegal to carry in MD, as is wielding them with an attempt to harm. But how would police know if he was carrying an illegal-type knife unless they had x-ray vision? And the knife being in his pocket itself is proof of no threat.

And he was innocent in that he'd never been found guilty of anything. He had some petty narcotics charges on the Judiciary Case Search, but if anything they shows a history of harassment by the police and courts. Narcotics charges against him appear to have been nol pros'd, and in one case the state delayed four times and left as 'STET' charges. Have you heard of those? Baltimore city loves them, it's where the state won't try a case but won't drop the charges, either,* keeping them on someone's record where they can't be expunged for three years, making legitimate employment nearly impossible for the accused.

And, of course, video. Now we have the man who filmed it, Kevin Moore, who said he was woken up by the sound of a Taser and screaming,* and saw Gray "folded up like a crab or a piece of origami."

Fern Shen, Baltimore Brew

On the national level, Baltimore has that "Wire" angle, and a twist on the race narrative, too. Majority-black city, mayor, city council. Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's been mayor long enough to have been able to improve a lot, should she have been willing: approve body cameras, give the citizen review board power to deliver penalties, use CitiStat to increase transparency and confidence. But the beatings, payouts and secrecy under SRB have gotten worse. Justice is no match for the entrenched self-dealings, favor system and torpor of our local government.

And now Larry Hogan's sending in the state troopers at the request of the mayor.  It's all a made-for-CNN drama, all tragic and generally depressing.

But maybe the pressure of national and international coverage and the DOJ's involvement could finally effect some real hope and change around here. Perhaps a pleasant side effect of having a Republican governor might be no pussyfooting around when it comes to setting Baltimore city's affairs to order. Maybe we'll even get some of that court-ordered external monitoring that's been working so well in Oakland-- no citizen has been shot to death by police there in 18 months. Maybe it might could happen!


*When people ask why I dislike O'Malley, this is why. He brought us stop and frisk which clogged up the courts and took time away from serious cases, nol prossing, STET-ing, ruining people's records. And crime went up.




Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Sold for Sex/Blind Crack Kingpin

Matthew Brown, 25.
'I got a tattoo of your initials, Daddy!
Please pay attention to me now!"
Out of country for two weeks, thanks for not burgling my house!
What did I miss?

Warren A B
The son of defense attorney Warren Brown's son Matthew Brown and one other guy were arrested for human trafficking for pimping out three girls aged 14, 16 and 17,  picking them up on North Avenue and taking them to a motel in Woodlawn. And holy shit does MB have the worst tattoo of all time. Is it an homage to dad's inititals? Brown calls the arrest "devastating."...  So, how many sons does Warren Brown have? At least one other, whose mom, Brown's ex-wife Donna, was murdered in Oct 2008.  In 2007 a man was shot in a car that crashed into Warren Brown's pool.

Two men allegedly of the "Up Da Hill" gang were indicted for six murders.*

Neworb Brown
Shit you would not believe if it was on a TV show: a Middle River/NY 38-year-old HarfCo blind crack kingpin* named Neworb Brown arrested with his presumably his not-blind and cash-counting twin brother Srewob and 17 others. He conducted business by getting others to drive him around, but was electronically surveilled anyway. So are the twins' names anagrams? Theories?

Appendix A: the Khaki-pants bandit
They caught the khaki-pants bandit, wanted for *50* robberies in the city.

"An ACLU report said that 109 people in Maryland died after police encounters between 2010 and 2014."

Egqueeze me? Bill Cosby is appearing at the Modell theater in Baltimore Friday, plenty of good seats still available for a mere $81.60 per. How many accusers is he up to now? HOLY FUCK 37!!