Anna Ditkoff's interview with Baltimore City Police Commissioner Leonard Hamm was one of the finest I've ever read ("Brass Tacks," Feature, May 9). He projected as a knowledgeable, thoughtful, deliberative, and experienced practitioner of his craft, and she asked very good questions, too, with follow-up and commentary.
As a former lower Waverly resident during 1958-'62, combat Army military police officer, and newspaper crime-beat reporter, I make the following observations. Future Hamm successors should all be Baltimoreans, with the disastrous "national searches" that gave us the criminal Ed Norris and the embarrassing dud Kevin Clark thrown on the trash heap for good. The mere fact that we even have "Safe Zones" speaks volumes as to the backwardness of our overall approach, however. Street corner surveillance cameras are a chilling step toward Big Brother: regrettable, but necessary. Any society that either will not or cannot protect itself will surely fall, usually does, and deserves to. I suggest additionally arming our city police officers with those old, tried and true M-14 rifles formerly used by the military in Vietnam that are still warehoused across the country--and paid for--with plenty of effective 7.92-mm ammunition that will stop gang members in their tracks. So will their cold, steel bayonets, and they also make a good, solid weapon--as do night sticks--that pack a mean to-the-head-or-gut butt stroke. They are far better weapons than the rapid-fire Mattel toy-like M-16 assault rifles with which we've saddled both our police and military over the last four decades.
Beyond that, our basic choice is this: Either we legalize all drugs or destroy the drug lords and their gangs by killing them all, for they mean to do that to us if necessary. One side will win, not both. By selling all the current patrol car force, we can use that money to triple the current number of officers on permanent--not six-week--foot patrols. Ending all our foreign, imperialistic wars will also free up money for the very same purpose. By ending the bogus "war on terror" abroad, we can then win the more important war of terror here at home. If necessary, we should consider the disbanding of the entire current Baltimore Police Department in favor of a takeover of same by the Maryland State Police, a force that looks and acts like a real law enforcement body. Beyond that, we should also consider deployment of the Army National Guard and even the regular Army on both our domestic streets and national frontiers with Mexico and Canada to end the current alien invasions of our land. Forget the streets of Baghdad--let's win the war for the streets of Baltimore. The latter matters, not the former.
P.T. Barnum once said, "There's a sucker born every minute." And if the readers of City Paper and the citizens of Baltimore believe that Police Commissioner Leonard Hamm is actually going to take a tough stance on crime in Baltimore, he and Mayor Sheila Dixon have a legion of suckers tied around their fingers.
My partner and I moved back to Baltimore City in June 2006 after years of disillusionment over the woes of the city. With a noticeable change in the O'Malley administration, we decided to give up our tranquil single-family home sitting on a half-acre of land in Baltimore County for an old-fashioned rehabbed rowhouse in the heart of Baltimore City. After about three months living in the Patterson Park neighborhood, we noticed that Baltimore City had not gotten better, but worse. Drug dealers were taking over the streets, prostitutes were frequenting the neighborhood and set up shop in front of the church steps, rats were fighting cats in the alleys, and the sidewalks were littered with glass from broken car windows.
When Mayor Dixon announced her long-anticipated crime initiative last week, I was a victim of a crime not once, not twice, but three times while walking my dogs in Patterson Park. Did the Baltimore Police Department take an aggressive approach against the perpetrator? No! In fact, after reporting the incident for a third time and trying to obtain a peace order against the individual, I was threatened with arrest.
As a member of the print media and a person with an educational background in law enforcement, I think Commissioner Hamm and Mayor Dixon have a lot to learn about crime and crime prevention. Even a week later after contacting the Southeast Police District and Mayor Dixon personally, I'm still awaiting a resolution. In the meantime, while I awaited my long overdue phone call from the mayor, I'm putting my house up for sale and moving out of Baltimore City. The citizens of Baltimore should not allow city officials to use political propaganda to cloud their minds that things will be better. Just keep in mind when going to the polls that old psychological slogan, Believe. Remember, dreams don't always come true.
Yesterday afternoon, I was walking my nine-pound Jack Russell terrier puppy in Riverside Park, and I let him off leash to play with a bunch of his doggie friends, just like I do every day. A few minutes later, a large man came storming over to our group, yelling, "Baltimore City police! Get your dogs on leashes and follow my partner to Animal Control." We all gathered our various canines and followed the officers, wondering what on earth could be happening and fearing that our dogs would be taken away. We arrived on the other side of the park to find six uniformed Baltimore police officers prepared with pads of tickets. They asked for ID, which not one of us had taken with us, and then chastised us for not having our IDs. They made us take turns holding each other's dogs while we returned home to get our IDs. Then, the officers wrote us each $100 citations for "walking dog off leash." The whole ordeal took about half an hour, and the officers were still there after I left. Apparently, there was another undercover officer on the other side of the park, too.
With over 100 murders in Baltimore so far this year, I find it difficult to believe that the best use of eight Baltimore City Police officers in the Southern District was writing tickets to yuppie dog walkers. I felt like offering to take them on a walk down Heath Street, which runs into the park, to show them all of the heroin deals going down while they were busy writing tickets in the park. I understand that the city has to make money, but they also pay these officers to protect us. Does it really take eight officers to "take down" all of these threatening off-leash puppies?
This is where the police department's "quota" system of rating officers based on the number of citations and/or arrests they make breaks down. In the past, I sometimes wondered, where are our police officers when we call 311 to report drug activity or when my friend waited an hour and a half for police to respond to a break-in at his home? Now I know: They were in the park giving out dog off leash citations.
Some Love for Local Brewers, Please
Anny Hoge did a nice piece on the American Craft Beer Week, which started May 14 at Max's, in the May 9 Baltimore Weekly section. However, I have a comment: Clipper City Brewing Co., along with Brewer's Art and Oliver Breweries, struggle every day to gain awareness for their product in their hometown--Baltimore--and the plug in the snippet about the event is for Dogfish Head out of Delaware and Lancaster Brewing Co. from Pennsylvania. Both fine establishments, but it would be nice to see a bit of love thrown at the locals.
By the Gods!
Without doubt a timely, evocative, and insightful piece done of the life and times of Gordon Scott. ("The Last of the Strongmen," Feature, May 2). The Thomases are a vital part of this story, for their humanity and graciousness to a "distant star" on the silver screen, who wound up coming to their home, living with them, and being a part of their life story.
My god, Chris Landers covered it all with a deft touch into the heart of man. "It's good to do for others, and let others do for you" as Bob Dylan puts it, and the Thomases live it. The intimacy evoked is rare indeed in print media today. Sure, I saw most of the Tarzans as a kid, and reveled in Saturday matinées at the local theaters. But never did I care much about the actors later on.
"The Last of the Strongmen" brought it all back home, that once the bright lights fade, lives continue in sometimes bleak oblivion, save for a few folks who really don't let go of the "caring heart."
I was very happy to see the article "The Independent" (Film Fest Frenzy, May 2), focusing not just on Don Dohler and the documentary Blood, Boobs, and Beast, but also giving nice exposure to filmmaker John Paul Kinhart. We got to see a rough cut of BB&B shortly before Don died, and I can say that Don was in fact very impressed and pleased with the film. But despite the stress of his advanced cancer, the perfectionist in him still compelled him to give "creative" feedback to his documentarian!
John has impressed me as a very bright, conscientious, talented young man. His dedication for two and a half years to this project is not just a wonderful tribute to an interesting and complex man, but has provided his family with an incredible film record of our beloved husband, father, brother, and friend. My thanks to writer Lee Gardner and City Paper.
Leslie G. Dohler
The writer is the widow of Don Dohler.
Don't Blame the Harvells
I have to take issue with Francis Uy's letter concerning the Harvell family ("The Problem Isn't Thugs," The Mail, May 2). First of all, investing in a car or a computer is hardly a sign of "fiscal irresponsibility." These are two items absolutely necessary for any kind of upward mobility. As for the televisions, well, if I were trapped by poverty, in a neighborhood controlled by drug-dealing teenagers, and on disability owing to a heart condition, I would watch quite a bit of television, too. But really, that's none of your business.
After reading the article, I contacted Joanna Harvell through Erin Sullivan, and dropped off some furniture, bedding, and kitchen items that I had planned to take to Goodwill. The generous folks at the Housing Authority have relocated the family to a slum so remote and isolated that it cannot be seen from any street, other than the single road that leads to it. I had no idea that neighborhoods like this even existed in Baltimore, and it was positively shameful to realize the "out of sight, out of mind" mentality that led to this development project. I saw no traffic at all, save for one city bus that trundled through around 5 p.m.
As for the Harvells, the family was quite literally standing around in their tiny, empty house, without even a chair to sit on. This is deep, deep poverty, and the environment seemed entirely bleak and hopeless. Would Mr. Uy care to help Anthony Jr. find employment?
All societies have their poorest members. The last thing they need is to be blamed and scolded for their situation. This is simply not productive.
And lastly, the point of charity is that it is given freely. If the Harvells want to sell my furniture and buy a TV with the money, they are free to do so. Empowerment begins with dignity, and denying them that is our failure, not theirs.
Judge Lamdin Rocks
It's about time that someone in the judicial system has the courage to tell it like it is ("Bench Talk," Mobtown Beat, April 18). We need more judges like Baltimore County's Bruce Lamdin, and fewer of the bleeding-heart liberal judges that we currently have, courtesy of Parris Glendening. This judge deserves a medal!
Editor Lee Gardner responds: While you're certainly entitled to your opinion of our judiciary, Lamdin was appointed by Glendening, too.
Editor's note: Over the past three and a half years, City Paper co-founder Russ Smith has enlightened, challenged, and occasionally enraged CP readers with his weekly column. It's time to start making some changes in the paper, though, and so we bid farewell to Right Field. Don't be surprised to see his byline popping up in these pages again in some form, but for now we offer our thanks for his dedication and his career-long eagerness to challenge the alt-weekly status quo.
Next week: our annual Sizzlin' Summer issue.
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