If Department of Justice Had only Watched “The Wire”

Peter Moskos continues to dissect the Department of Justice’s report on the Baltimore Police Department. It sounds just like the HBO series:

The system has several key deficiencies. First, BPD sets thresholds of activity that trigger “alerts” to supervisors about potentially problematic conduct that are too high. Because of these high thresholds, BPD supervisors often are not made aware of troubling behavioral patterns until after officers commit egregious misconduct. Second, even where alerts are triggered, we found that BPD supervisors do not consistently take appropriate action to counsel the officer, consider additional training, or otherwise intervene in a way that will correct the behavior before an adverse event occurs. Third, critical information is omitted or expunged from the EIS that could help address officer training or support needs or help prevent future misconduct.

It is clear that the Department has been unable to interrupt serious patterns of misconduct. Our investigation found that numerous officers had recurring patterns of misconduct that were not adequately addressed. Similarly, we note that, in the past five years, 25 BPD officers were separately sued four or more times for Fourth Amendment violations.

Minus the sex, of course:

Officers suffer from being supplied with outdated, broken, or in some cases, no equipment. As one officer noted to the Fraternal Order of Police in a focus group, “How am I supposed to pull someone over for having a taillight out when my car has two?”

Officers have no computers in their cars, forcing them to return to the district station to type reports, and even those computers are often not working…. Taking officers off the street to type reports at the district takes away from time that could be spent on law enforcement or community building activities. It also creates inefficiencies for officers who often must write reports on paper in the field while their memories of incidents are fresh, and then type the same information into computer databases after arriving at the district station at the end of their shift.

11 thoughts on “If Department of Justice Had only Watched “The Wire”

  1. The latter two paragraphs describe somethng that should certainly disturb the citizens of Baltimore, but should be no business of the federal Justice Department.


  2. And yet virtually everyone in Baltimore – both victims and perpetrators of police brutality and incompetence – will vote in lockstep for the same Democrat party that has run Baltimore for decades. Big City, Urban Machine, Union Power Democrat Liberalism is one helluva drug. It is the crack cocaine of American politics – once you get it you can’t go back: Baltimore’s last Republican mayor was in 1967. We had not yet gone to the moon. Doris Day was still making movies. Elvis had not yet had his comeback special.

    And SBC Fratboys and Kellerites actually believe that Racial Reconciliation Proclamations, Manifestos, Declarations, and “Gospel-Centered” Hashtag Campaigns (the & Campaign being the newest kid on the block) will bring “Redemptive Social Justice” to blighted urban hotspots like Detroit and Baltimore. Dream on, Dreamers.

    I sense a desperate need for a combination of Goldwater Libertarianism and Two-Kingdoms Theology to pull Baltimore back from the abyss. I too have dreams that will never be fulfilled.

    I want my Ol’ Timey Religion back please.


  3. Andrew,
    Don’t know Goldwater Libertarianism would have prevented Freddie Gray’s death or the discriminatory enforcement of the law (see http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/baltimore-city/bs-md-ci-doj-report-20160809-story.html ). Please note the following from a Baltimore Sun article:

    Black pedestrians were 37 percent more likely to be searched by Baltimore police citywide and 23 percent more likely to be searched during vehicle stops. But officers found contraband twice as often when searching white residents during vehicle stops and 50 percent more often during pedestrian stops, the report notes.


  4. Curt,
    And every single law enforcement official involved in Freddy Gray’s death is a cog in the Baltimore Democrat Machine. No one in Freddy Gray’s family or neighborhood would ever pull the lever for anyone other than a liberal Democrat. Baltimore, Ferguson, Milwaukee, Detroit, Compton, Chicago have been run by the Democrat Machine for decades – all voted in democratically by people now complaining about police brutality. The brutality is a consequence of what Democrat Liberalism turns these places into.

    Both victims and perpetrators are locked in an bad marriage that neither wants to walk away from.

    Big City Urban Liberalism: The Crack Cocaine of American Democracy. And cities are dying of overdoses.


  5. Andrew – I’m not so sure that I would classify it as “liberalism,” at least not from what I see in Chicago politics anyway. Yes, the citizenry votes Demo across the board at each and every election. But they do that largely because 1) their unions tell them to and 2) many are locked into pay-to-play jobs. IOW, if you sat down and interviewed some of these people you might find some pretty right-wing ideologies. They’re just locked into the machine because, as they see it, 1) they have no choice but to vote that way and 2) the most disgusting excuse of all, “it might be corrupt, but ‘it works’ .” The latter is one especially has been coming home to roost in recent decades; it’s beginning not to work so well anymore.


  6. Curt, you gotta compare:

    The American Society of News Editors calculates minority representation at newspapers. The Washington Post is 31 percent “minority” (and 14 percent black) in a city that is 60 percent minority! (And 51 percent black.) The New York Times is 19 percent “minority” (and 8 percent black) in a city that is 65 percent minority! (And 25 percent black.)

    [I put minority in “quotes” because minority percentage is often used as a cover for just how few actual blacks are involved. As if, given America’s legacy of slavery and racism, hiring a “person of color” from China is the same as hiring a born in Baltimore black. (Fun fact: did you know that Italian-Americans, like blacks and women, are an officially recognized minority group at my school when it comes to hiring and promotion?)]

    So should the workforce at a newspaper represent the demographics or the city? I don’t know. Maybe. Or should it reflect the demographics of the region? Or maybe the demographics of America (36 percent minority). Or maybe just the demographics of those who graduate from journalism school? I don’t know. Sure, it’s a good debate to have. Just like the debate about minority representation in police departments is good to have. But it seems odd for a newspaper that is 46 “percent points more white than the residents” to fault police departments that better represent their community.


  7. ““it might be corrupt, but ‘it works’ .”
    Why is that so disgusting? A lot of the intransigence in congress can be tied to policies intended to clean up corruption. Perhaps a little corruption is useful lubricant – of course like putting oil in your engine, you don’t want too much or too little, and everyone in a while you need to flush the system. Pushing for too much purity in government may have the same effect of “cleaning out one’s engine”. Everything grinds to a halt. That sounds great when you think of the bureaucrat shutting down lemonade stands – not so great when it means waiting a year for your trial because of the backlog in the courts.

    I agree that big cities are basically one party (democrat) systems, but the challenges the CJ system faces is a bit more complicated than that. Bill Stuntz is worth reading on this topic (even if he was an evangelical).


  8. @dgh
    Perhaps we should go by hiring pool. If your pool is national, then perhaps one should expect the demographics of your workforce to reflect national demographics. If it is local, then perhaps it should reflect the local pool. How many cops move across country for a job in the BPD? I suspect not as many as journalists willing to move cross-country to work for the Sun.


  9. sbd – I like your analogy about cleaning an engine. Are you psychic? I just bought a couple of cans of Seafoam and am getting ready to run the stuff through the intake manifold of a truck with 152,000 miles on it. I expect enough smoke to be generated to cause the neighbors to panic, possibly call the fire dept., EPA, city gov’t…

    Anyway, back to the corruption: I’ve always liked the old expression, “absolute power corrupts absolutely.” And again, I can only speak for Chicago though I’m sure similar situations exist in other urban areas. Those holding the power strings don’t really care about excessive deficit spending, rent control, rising street crime, etc. They care about remaining in power. So they throw a few bones to the public when election time rolls around making it sound like they’re earnest about cleaning things up, but in reality are only interested in getting re-elected – in order to maintain control and power. The Illinois Speaker of the House is one of the most classic examples.

    And yes, there’s probably no such thing as doing away with all the corruption – I’m sure everything would indeed grind to a halt. But how much is too much. I used to have work with customers years ago who wanted to get telecom facilities provisioned in Mexico, Latin and South American countries. Literally nothing would get done until bribes were paid, all up and down the line. It could eventually get to that point here, too, without some checks and balances. And there are no known checks and balances when it comes to corruption.


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