The Baltimore Police Department’s Gun Trace Task Force builds on what we have already known about policing in Baltimore.
The Baltimore Police Department has been shown to use undue and excessive force as covered by Mark Puente in his Sept. 28, 2014 Baltimore Sun article. In August 2016, the Department of Justice released a scathing 164-page report indicting the entire department. They wrote on page three of the document: “the Department of Justice concludes that there is reasonable cause to believe that BPD engages in a pattern or practice of conduct that violates the Constitution or federal law. BPD engages in a pattern or practice of: (1) making unconstitutional stops, searches, and arrests; (2) using enforcement strategies that produce severe and unjustified disparities in the rates of stops, searches and arrests of African Americans; (3) using excessive force; and (4) retaliating against people engaging in constitutionally-protected expression.”
After the DOJ report, the Baltimore Police Department did not fundamentally change. They continued to have a “War Room” and were found to have engaged in secret aerial surveillance, facial scanning, and using Geofeedia and Zerofox to track activists on social media. They have secretly deployed a device called Stingray to capture all cell phone signals in an area effectively criminalizing entire communities, especially disinvested, redlined Black neighborhoods.
Hence, the Baltimore Police Department is fundamentally a white supremacist organization that hurts Black Lives. The GTTF trials reveal the ways by which BPD officers have increased crime in Baltimore City—looting the city via excessive overtime pay, selling looted drugs on the street, planting guns and drugs on suspects, jumping out and committing armed robbery of residents, and racial profiling. And perhaps most mysteriously, there still remains the unsolved murder of Det. Sean Suiter killed just a day before he was scheduled to testify in the GTTF trial.
These prolific and systemic criminal police acts also indict Baltimore’s current and past mayors that tripled the budget of BPD since the 1990s—especially by former mayor Martin O’Malley. Tens of thousands of lives have been destroyed. The Baltimore Police Department must be disbanded and the local Fraternal Order of Police abolished.
Baltimore can follow the example of Camden, New Jersey and fire the entire force with a plan to immediately transition to the Baltimore Peacebuilding Authority. Instead of hyperpolicing our hypersegregated communities, we can operate a peacebuilding and peacemaking entity that centers deescalation, mental health, public health, conflict mediation, and guarding the public’s interest to authentically protect and serve. This can be done. This should be done. It must be done if Baltimore is to reach its potential.
Lawrence Brown is the grandson of sharecroppers who lived in the Mississippi Delta and an assistant professor at Morgan State University in the School of Community Health and Policy. He tweets as @bmoredoc.