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We’re On It

Posted 9/7/2005

Regarding “Law and Order: State Delegate Drawing Attention to Increasing Number of Quality of Life Arrests in Baltimore” (Mobtown Beat, Aug. 17), the problems at the Baltimore City Central Booking and Intake Facility are ones that deserve to be kept in the media spotlight. Otherwise, Baltimore City citizens will continue to be kept at Central Booking for too long for charges that they do not need to be arrested for, and which linger needlessly on the public record.

However, contrary to what the state Del. Jill Carter (D-41st District) asserts in the article, the mayor, Baltimore Police Department, and City Council have been at work on these issues since March of this year when news of police “arrest quotas” and overcrowding and delays in releasing arrestees at Central Booking were first reported. The council’s Public Safety Subcommittee, of which I am chair, has been especially active working to address these problems.

On July 6 of this year, the subcommittee held a public hearing on Councilman Bernard “Jack” Young’s (D-12th District) bill, Resolution 05-0057R, “A Long-Term Solution to an Effective Baltimore City Central Booking and Intake Center.” At the hearing, the City Council, Police Department, Law Department, State’s Attorney’s Office, Baltimore City Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, Public Defender’s Office, Judge Charlotte Cooksey, justice advocates, and community members discussed how the city and state could work together for the safety and just treatment of arrestees at Central Booking.

In April of this year, the Public Safety Subcommittee created the Task Force on Police Performance Enhancement and Expungement of Arrest to answer two questions: 1) Does the Baltimore Police Department’s Performance Enhancement and Training Program encourage arrest quotas?, and 2) are citizens who are arrested and detained at Central Booking, then released without being charged, informed of their right to have the record of the arrest “expunged”—i.e., deleted from the public record—and instructed and provided with the forms to do so?

Over the following five months, representatives from the Police Department, Fraternal Order of Police, Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, and office of council President Sheila Dixon met with the other Public Safety Subcommittee members and I to research, discuss, and draft the task force’s “Report on the Police Performance Enhancement Program and Recommendations to Improve the Process for Expungement of Arrest When No Charges Are Filed.”

The report is due for public release in September. I can say at this time that many of Del. Carter’s assertions will be challenged. I agree that the system at Central Booking is far from perfect and that there are still many things the police and City Council can do to solve the problems there. However, we need the assistance of our state’s leaders to make reforms to the Maryland Code on Criminal Procedures and the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, a state agency, which operates Central Booking. This will happen not by pointing fingers but by cooperation between the city and state, as well as the media keeping its spotlight on the problems.

Councilman Jim Kraft
1st District

Chain Chain Chain . . .

As a newcomer (only here since 1987), I find it ironic that Benn Ray and his Independent Hampden are trying to preserve the restarted Hampden by keeping big chain stores out (“Life on a Different Avenue,” Mobtown Beat, Aug. 31). In so far as the place has been restarted, this has been because of a big chain.

When McDonald’s planned to open an outlet on Falls Road in 1994, my wife and I (among others) circulated fliers in the area about the Hampden Community Council meeting where the developer was to answer questions. That issue multiplied the active membership of the Hampden Community Council, and if the McDonald’s was not the cause of the rebirth of the Hampden Village Merchants’ Association, it was the occasion. And the Hampden Village Merchants’ Association was the group that got the Main Streets organization there, which is the cause of some of the increase in businesses.

I would also have to say that the greatest complaint of residents in the area is the loss of two chain businesses, with G.C. Murphy closing a few years ago and the Salvation Army store a few weeks ago.

Mark Owings

Police State Is Nothing New

So Brian Morton is waking up to the fact that the United States is sliding into a “Police State” (Political Animal, Aug 24). Great. The problem is that this is not a post-Sept. 11 phenomenon, but a consequence of the “War on Drugs,” which has been eroding American civil liberties for decades. And the irony is that Mr. Morton himself, in his previous position as spokesman for drug czar Barry McCaffrey, aided and abetted the process of increasing police power so the state could stick its nose into Americans’ private choices.

If you’re in the social and political mainstream and your lifestyle choices lean more toward Budweiser and Camels than cannabis and psilocybin, until recently it’s been a mostly benign dictatorship. But Americans interested in exercising their freedom to explore political, social, and neurological alternatives have been enduring heavy-handed abuses of police power for decades. The recent blitzkrieglike bust of a rave in Utah by paramilitary law enforcement (news of which has been buzzing around the internet) is just the latest example.

So the increasing power of the police state makes Mr. Morton uncomfortable? Good. Just a little late. It’s too bad that all of us have to reap the bitter harvest that he helped sow.

Tom Swiss

Brian Morton responds: Barry McCaffrey went around the United States telling state and federal officials that “we cannot incarcerate our way out of the problem.” He campaigned against mandatory-minimum sentences for drug crimes and pushed to eliminate the disparity between crack and powder cocaine sentencing, a practice that ends up racist in its effects. And more than any other “drug czar” (a title he hated) in the “War on Drugs” (a term invented by Abe Rosenthal of The New York Times that McCaffrey loathed), he pushed for an emphasis on prevention and treatment rather than interdiction and incarceration, something congressional Republicans refused to understand.

The current “police state” has much more to do with GOP abuses of power in the modern era rather than the broad brush with which you’d love to tar anyone who stands between you and your weed.<


Lest subsequent editions of City Paper’s Mail page become soaked from a protracted urine match between myself and Chomsky 101 sycophant Max Obuszewski (“The Gulf Sore,” The Mail, Aug. 24), I humbly offer up my succinct final address on the subject of how to flog a dead horse. Mr. O’s astounding assertion of personal ignorance on Congress’ voting record, complete with obtuse candor, still manages to imply that the October 2002 Authorization for Use of Force against Iraq does not exist. Look it up, dude. Twenty-three counts.

Similarly, simply because Max ergo sum can find only “disasters” in President Bush’s foreign policy doesn’t mean that trees won’t make a sound when they fall in the forest. There are a lot of Afghans flying kites, visiting the barbershop, and jamming on tunes today thanks to GPS bombs stamped made in the usa. The U.S. Navy’s tsunami relief efforts alone refute his brilliant redistribution/conversion theory.

Now before you feel the need for another refrain, Max, please accept that I am in total agreement in our mutual understanding of all that wasted aid, from Haiti to Egypt, never truly reaching the “dispossessed” of the planet. Especially when well-intentioned Americans bearing Fulbright scholarships get gunned down in Palestinian refugee camps. Or, U.S. Army Rangers get their bodies dragged through the streets of Mogadishu for the television cameras.

George W. Bush, you may or may not selectively recall, allocated billions for AIDS relief in Africa. Can I “get a witness” for your envisioned future trial? His administration has also moved away from the previously cozy relationship with the House of Saud, toward another place laden with oil that will undoubtedly be a most unwelcome competitor to the corrupt Wahhabi royals. And, this very same country will soon have a brand-new constitution! Citizens in Iraq, I’m betting, can soon look forward to the glorious day when getting inconvenienced by a closed metro toilet can transform into an entire indictment against one’s elected officials. Don’tcha just love “Free Trade”?

Daylin Louderback

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