Week In Review: DOJ sues Baltimore County police, BPD brutality gag orders unconstitutional, a beer bus, more

-A chase on Wednesday night ended with Tyrone Banks, a Baltimorean with a history of mental health issues, being shot and killed by police, a police officer shot in the leg, and a bystander shot in the cross-fire. Commissioner Michael Harrison has said that a gun was recovered from Banks but he did not know if Banks shot at police. Video of the incident captured by someone who was in downtown on President St where the shootout shows a staggering amount of shots fired. Police say Banks had fired at them and tried to drive into them the day before. The sister of bystander told Channel 2 that BPD did not mention her sister’s shooting during the late night press conference after Banks’ death, in an attempt to downplay it. She also described.her sister’s experience: “She felt pain and looked down and she saw blood. She looked up, couldn’t go anywhere…there were empty police cars blocking her, people running along the side she said she did see some of the policemen get out of the car and run.” The incident brings up questions about whether police should be firing at a moving car, whose bullet struck the bystander, and why Banks did not get the help he heeded that honestly, here in Baltimore, we do not expect to be quickly or even adequately addressed. 

-The Department of Justice has filed an employment discrimination lawsuit against the Baltimore County Police Department for its discriminatory hiring practices. The DOJ says that since 2013, BCPD has been involved in “unintended employment discrimination against African American applications for entry-level police officer and cadet positions by making hiring decisions based on the results of hiring examinations that were not job-related and that disproportionately excluded African American applicants.” The complaint explains that the written test is “not job-related” and that over almost a decade, black applicants have consistently passed the test less frequently than whites and that the “difference between the pass rates of white and African American applicants on the…Exam[s] is statistically significant.” Pretty much, the written test which is not a necessity for being hired, is being used to accept or reject applicants and this written test favors white applicants. The lawsuit also provides solutions to this discriminatory practice including getting rid of the test, “remedial relief to all persons who have suffered individual loss as a result of the discrimination,” and locate hiring measures that are not discriminatory.

-Baltimore City’s official version of Stop Snitching is no more. Back in July, the state’s Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Baltimore’s practice of including non-disparagement agreements in police misconduct settlements—gag orders that demand citizens who received settlements not speak about them to the public is unconstitutional on First Amendment grounds. At the time, City Solicitor Andre Davis said the city planned to request that the case be reheard. However, this week, Davis told the Baltimore Brew that Baltimore won’t be contesting the ruling in the state’s Supreme Court.  “We, of course, will do whatever the [district] court orders,” Davis said. The ACLU of Maryland, filed the case on behalf of Baltimore woman Ashley Overbey Underwood and the Brew. Overbey Underwood was denied a portion of a $63,000 settlement she received after what she said was a brutal beating by police, when she spoke out against the Baltimore City Police Department. The ACLU of Maryland called the move “another victory for the free speech rights of the mostly Black + Brown residents of Baltimore who are survivors of police abuse!”

-Good news: Mary J. Blige and Nas came to town. Better News: They donated a portion of the proceeds from the coucert to Liberty Rec and Tech Center in Baltimore. The two performed at Royal Farms Arena this past Thursday. “In 2012, Baltimore City Recreation and Parks reduced the amount of recreation centers they were supporting from 55 to 31. Liberty Rec and Tech Center were among those cut,” The Baltimore Sun reported. And this happening on the same week that Jay Z’s announced his strange deal to make the NFL woke or whatever, lining his pockets, promoting his artists, and really tossing Colin Kaepernick to the side, is encouraging as a far less sinister sort of philanthropy. When we nurture kids in the city, everybody wins. 

-A Baltimore man who spent 31 years in jail for a murder charge who ultimately had those charges dropped, is has filed a federal lawsuit against Baltimore Police, Baltimore’s mayor, and City Council. Gary Washington’s lawsuit says that BPD forced a 12 year-old and a 13 year-old to identify Washington as shooting Faheem Ali back in 1986, by threatening to take the kids away from their parents. The lawsuit quotes an officer saying, “Cooperate or you’ll never see your mother again.” In 1999, the 12 year-old (who was the only witness tying Washington to the murder) testified that he was coerced. This arrives among a series of recent murder cases (Keith Davis Jr., the trials for the alleged killers of Taylor Hayes) which has made BPD and the State’s Attorney’s look a mess.

-You know how traveling from Baltimore to the Eastern Shore results in mess and backup the closer you get to the Bay Bridge? The people in charge of things are working to change that. Transportation officials are spending $5 million to study ways to reduce backup but Governor Larry Hogan said this week that he’d only approve the addition of a third span of the bridge. It seems weird to make that kind of statement before the exhaustive study even really gets off the ground but hey that’s Larry Hogan. And of course, this is just enabling more travel in automobiles and avoiding the potential of serious public transportation plans—and as the Baltimore Sun’s Editorial Board pointed out, the planet is in danger and Hogan’s solution doesn’t take that into consideration at all. Oh, and in other transportation news: there will now be a bus that takes you from downtown Baltimore to the Guinness Brewery. A beer bus? Really?

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