Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley is defending policing policies he supported while mayor.
O’Malley, in an interview published Thursday in GQ Magazine, is quoted from an interaction observed during a campaign stop in Iowa in which he describes Baltimore as looking more like a violent Mexican city.
The woman asks the former Baltimore Mayor and Maryland governor what the public can expect from him based on the large number of arrests that occurred in Baltimore during his time running the city.
“You weren’t in Baltimore in 1999, but I was,” the magazine quotes O’Malley telling the woman. “It looked more like Mexico City than an American city, and the gutters quite literally ran with blood.”
The article goes on to describe O’Malley as reacting to the woman’s question “with more than a hint of contempt in his voice.”
The issue of Baltimore’s policing policies under O’Malley has grown since the riots in the city following the death of Freddie Gray, a west Baltimore man who died while in police custody.
O’Malley, who was mayor from 1999 to 2007, oversaw a period of zero-tolerance policing fashioned after a model from New York City that drove down some violent crime numbers including homicides but also resulted in the incarceration of more than 100,000 people in a city of about 640,000 people.
He has used those policies as a campaign point including a 2013 campaign video highlighting his crime fighting efforts in which a narrator describes mayoral candidate O’Malley as “formulating an assault” on crime in the city.
But those policies are now under assault as O’Malley seeks the highest elected office in the country.
Critics, such as David Simon, the former Baltimore Sun reporter and creator of the HBO show “The Wire,” say O’Malley’s policies hurt police community relations and ultimately lead to conditions that resulted in the riots in late April and a related 10-day state of emergency in Baltimore.
Since O’Malley’s departure as mayor, the city has seen a decline in the number of people incarcerated.
A recent study done by the Pew Charitable Trusts that was presented to a state panel earlier this week found that the number of people incarcerated in the city has declined sharply over the last decade even as that number has grown in the state’s 23 other jurisdictions.
“If not for Baltimore City, the state’s prison population would have grown,” said Felicity Rose, a senior associate for the Crime and Justice Institute. ”The share of offenders from Baltimore City went down 30 percent.”
Even so, the city now faces concerns about rising homicide rates similar to those in other major urban areas around the country in the wake of police-related deaths in Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore.
The timing is seen by the author of the GQ magazine story as politically inconvenient for O’Malley who has had trouble so far in matching his Democratic opponents in both fundraising and the polls.
“The political hand O’Malley had been planning to play was now a loser,” writes the author of the GQ story.