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Editorial Advisory Board: Baltimore police, heal thyself?

The federal criminal trial of former Baltimore Gun Trace Task Squad members has revealed some of the most shocking organized criminal behavior that could be alleged against police officers. Two of the officers charged are on trial; the balance of those officers who were indicted pleaded guilty and some are testifying for the government against their cohorts.

The allegations include murder, robbery, theft, gross negligence, cover-up at the highest quarters, and that a serving deputy commissioner coached one of his officers who shot a man in the back after a traffic stop because he did not want to chase him on foot when he fled.

The testimony elicited in U.S. District Court in Baltimore suggests a depth of corruption among Baltimore’s Finest. Not only did witnesses implicate a deputy commissioner, their testimony named Internal Affairs as assisting the cover-up of theft. In response to this jaw-dropping testimony, the Baltimore Police Department announced it is monitoring testimony from the trial and that the incoming commissioner, Darryl De Sousa, has created a special “Corruption Investigation Unit” to investigate.

NO! NO! NO! Enough of the appearance of self-dealing, cover and tainted investigations. If De Sousa, now serving as interim commissioner, wants to root out the corruption federal witnesses alleged pervades within the police department – corruption and cover-up that have allegedly penetrated up through the command structure – he has absolutely no choice but to step aside and request that the General Assembly pass emergency legislation to appoint a commission and special prosecutor to investigate and clean up BPD. The panel must be comprised of people whose motives cannot be questioned, who will assemble a trained, non-political team that answers to no one in city government or the police department. This appointed body must be properly funded and staffed and vested with the powers of subpoena, criminal referral and association with a special prosecutor who can proceed criminally.

De Sousa and the department must give these investigators total access to where they want to go and get out of their way while they go there. Their report must be made public.

The Baltimore City Council has scheduled a Feb. 21 hearing on whether De Sousa should be confirmed as Baltimore’s next police commissioner.  Given that De Sousa was a high official of BPD while the outrageous behavior alleged in the current federal trial was occurring, we urge the City Council to delay De Sousa’s confirmation until after there has been a thorough, independent investigation of BPD.

The city does not need another a study. Baltimore and its citizens need a fully empowered engine of justice.

EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD MEMBERS

James B. Astrachan, Chair

James K. Archibald

John Bainbridge Jr.

Wesley D. Blakeslee

Martha Ertman

Arthur F. Fergenson

Susan Francis

David Jaros

Ericka King

Stephen Meehan

C. William Michaels

Norman Smith

H. Mark Stichel

The Daily Record Editorial Advisory Board is composed of members of the legal profession who serve voluntarily and are independent of The Daily Record. Through their ongoing exchange of views, members of the Board attempt to develop consensus on issues of importance to the Bench, Bar and public. When their minds meet, unsigned opinions will result. When they differ, majority views and signed rebuttals will appear. Members of the community are invited to contribute letters to the editor and/or columns about opinions expressed by the Editorial Advisory Board.

Find out more about the members of the Editorial Advisory Board.