Baltimore Police Department
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The Baltimore Police Department (BPD) provides police services to the city of Baltimore, Maryland and was officially established by the Maryland Legislature on March 16, 1853. It is organized into ten districts, nine based on geographical areas and the Public Housing Section, and is responsible for policing 78.3 square miles (203 km2) of land and 7.7 square miles (20 km2) of waterways.
The first attempt to establish a police department in Baltimore occurred in 1784, nearly 60 years after the founding of the original town, when a guard force of constables were authorized to enforce town laws and arrest those in violation. The first BPD officer to die in the line of duty occurred when Sergeant William Jourdan was shot and killed by an unknown gunman during the first city council elections on October 14, 1857. Night Watchman George Workner was the first law enforcement officer to be killed in the city when he was stabbed during an escape attempt by nine inmates in the Baltimore Jail on March 14, 1808, but his death predates the founding of the department.
In 1845 the current Baltimore Police Department was founded by the state legislature "to provide for a better security for life and property in the City of Baltimore". The early days of the Department were marked by conflict over Know Nothing control.
In 1861, during the U.S. Civil War, the police department was taken over by the federal government and run by the U.S. Military until it was turned back over to the legislature in 1862.
In July 1974 officers joined other striking municipal workers for five days during the Baltimore police strike.
As of a 2000 survey published by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2003, BPD is the 8th largest municipal police department in the United States with a total of 3,034 police officers. Comparatively as of the 2000 U.S. census Baltimore ranked as the 17th largest city in the United States with a population of 651,154.
As of 2010[update] there have been 120 police officers killed in the line of duty, which is by far the largest total in Maryland. The next largest total belongs to the Maryland State Police, with 40 troopers killed in the line of duty as of 2005.
BPD has evolved its crime fighting technology and techniques over the years beginning with the introduction of call boxes in 1885. Other major technological upgrades include the introduction of the Bertillion system in 1896, police radio communications in 1933, a police laboratory in 1950, computerized booking procedures and 911 emergency systems in 1985, the first ever 311 non emergency system and CCTV cameras (like those in the United Kingdom) in 1996, and the CitiStat system in 2000.
In the early 1960s the Baltimore City Park Police were absorbed into the Baltimore Police Department. In 2005, the Housing Authority of Baltimore City Police were disbanded and operations taken over by the Baltimore Police Department. Housing Authority officers, if they desired, had to apply for jobs with the city police losing their time and seniority they had from previous employment with the Housing Authority of Baltimore City. There is current talk of merging the Baltimore Schools Police into the department as well though it is unclear if those officers would have to reapply for positions within the Baltimore Police Department and what if any job benefits such as seniority and pension they might be able to bring with them in the new position.
The Baltimore Police Department is staffed by nearly 4000 civilian and sworn personnel. These include dispatchers, crime lab technicians, chaplains and unarmed auxiliary police officers.
African Americans in the department
A historically Irish American dominated police department, African Americans were not hired as police officers until 1937 when Violet Hill Whyte became the BPD's first African American officer. The first African American male officers Walter T. Eubanks Jr., Harry S. Scott, Milton Gardner, and J. Hiram Butler Jr. were hired in 1938, all of whom were assigned to plainclothes. In 1943, African American officers were finally allowed to wear police uniforms, and by 1950, there were fifty African American officers in the department. Patrolman Henry Smith Jr. became the first African American officer to die in the line of duty in 1962, when he was shot to death breaking up a dice game on North Milton Avenue in East Baltimore. The department itself had not fully integrated until 1966.
Prior to 1966, African American officers were limited to foot patrols as they were barred from the use of squad cars. These officers were quarantined in rank, barred from patrolling in White neighborhoods, and would often only be given specialty assignments in positions in the Narcotics division or as undercover plainclothes officers. Further, African American officers were the target of racial harassment from their Caucasian coworkers and African American citizens in the communities they patrolled. During this time African American officers were subject to racial slurs from white co-workers during roll call, and encountered degrading racial graffiti in the very districts/units they were assigned. During this time period, two future police commissioners of Baltimore, Bishop L. Robinson and Edward J. Tilghman were amongst Baltimore's African American police officers.
During the civil rights movement, trust between the department and the largely African American city were strained. Racial riots due to police brutality were occurring all over America, and the racial mistreatment at the hands of several White officers labeled Baltimore as a trouble spot for violence. The police force at the time was also under study of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) as the department was severely troubled at the time. The IACP report showed the BPD to be the most corrupt and antiquated in the nation with an almost non-existent relationship with Baltimore's African American community. This lack of relationship resulted in African American citizens being subject to both excessive force from police officers, and retaliation from community members for interacting with city police officers. The changes demanded in the report occurred almost overnight with the hiring of new police commissioner Donald Pomerleau. Pomerleau himself was a prior-service marine who authored the IACP report committed to changing the department and improving relations with Baltimore's African American community.
Since Pomerleau's hiring, the department made reforms to improve the relations with Baltimore's growing African American community ending the segregationist practices within the department. In 1968, racial rioting in response to the murder of Martin Luther King Jr. broke out across Baltimore's African American neighborhoods. As few African American officers held rank within the department during the riot the white-dominated police department found itself at odds against the African American community. In 1971, the Vanguard Justice Society was founded, an organization representing the rights and interests of the department's African American officers. Throughout the 1970s, more African Americans advanced in the department with Black officers holding the positions of district commanders and chief of patrol. In 1984, in a political move by Mayor Donald Schaefer to give the majority African American population more power in the city, Bishop L. Robinson was named as Baltimore's Police Commissioner. Robinson was the first African American police officer to command the department which was previously controlled by Irish American and Italian American police officers. Robinson was also the force's first Black officer to command the Eastern District and the Patrol Division. The department also redefined several of its racial policies in direct response to riots in Los Angeles and Miami as a means of avoiding similar racial tension in a city with a larger percentage of African American citizens.
Currently, the department is administered by Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III and Deputy Commissioner of Administration John P. Skinner, both of whom are white and Deputy Commissioner of Operations Anthony E. Barksdale who is African American.
During Martin O'Malley's administration as mayor, the department had become 43% African American. While progress has been made to improve the department's relationship with Baltimore's now majority African American community, improvements are still being made to the department which for several years has been subject to criticism for its treatment of African American citizens. Police community relations have remained strained with the war on drugs that has plagued several African American neighborhoods in East and West Baltimore and coincidentally enough, many of the most despised officers in several of Baltimore's African American neighborhoods are also African American.
The BPD offers promotional opportunities to members with at least three years of service. Promotion offers you advancement into a supervisory position. Opportunities for advanced training are provided to members to enhance their growth after graduation from the police academy. Specialized training in firearms, defense tactics, and job-related topics such as basic criminal investigation are offered.
Helicopter of the Baltimore Police Department
The Baltimore Police Department fleet consists of primarily the Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor and Chevrolet Impala. Some older Chevrolet Caprices may be seen as some are still in service. Motorcycles are Harley Davidson. Vehicles are white with blue and silver striping. A replica of an officer's badge is on the driver's and front passenger door. Unmarked Dodge Chargers and assorted Kias are used by some command staff and specialized units.
The primary service weapon is the Glock 22 .40 caliber pistol. Officers are also issued a Monadnock expandable straight baton, Taser X26 and OC pepper spray. Remington 870 shotguns are available as well as a less lethal model of the 870. In heavy situations, SWAT officers may employ the use of the G36, which fires the 5.56 NATO round, the H&K UMP40, and M4 variants.
The espantoon is a type of wooden police baton that is distinct to the city of Baltimore and has been in use for generations. It is an ornate wood straight baton equipped with a swiveled leather strap with which it can be twirled. Between 1994 and 2000, the espantoon was banned in favor of the koga stick due to police commissioner Thomas Frazier's perception that its twirling intimidated the citizenry. In 2000, Edward T. Norris assumed the office of police commissioner and lifted the ban on the espantoon, although he did not mandate its use. The move was made as part of a general effort to boost morale and instill a more aggressive approach to policing in Baltimore. Norris stated, "When I found out what they meant to the rank and file, I said, 'Bring them back.' ... It is a tremendous part of the history of this Police Department." While the move did not make the espantoon an issued item by the department as it once was, it remains to this day an optional piece of carry equipment.
BPD has experienced negative publicity in recent years due to several high profile corruption and brutality allegations, including the 2005 arrest of Officers William A. King and Antonio L. Murray by the FBI for federal drug conspiracy charges.
Police box on North Charles Street near Penn Station.
During the past generation, the Baltimore Police Department has faced criticism from local media, elected officials, and citizen advocacy groups. The criticism has pertained to the high crime rate in the city of Baltimore, which in some years has been ranked among the highest in the nation. Accusations include numerous arrests of innocent minority citizens for seemingly minor offenses, and the failure to sufficiently assist minority victims of crime.
Arrests for minor offenses
In the mid-2000s, Maryland State Delegate, the Honorable Jill P. Carter daughter of the late civil rights champion, Walter P. Carter, exposed numerous cases of the Baltimore City Police arresting people for seemingly minor offenses, detaining them at Central Booking for several hours. Many were released without charges. Some were reportedly detained at Central Booking for several days before seeing a court commissioner. All arrestees in Maryland are required to have an initial appearance before a court commissioner within 24 hours of their arrest.
It should also be noted that correctional officers at Central Booking were rumored to be on a work slowdown during this time. Corrections personnel are prohibited from striking.
The exposure of these cases led to judicial and legislative action. In 2005, the Maryland Court of Appeals ordered all arrestees not charged within 24 hours to be released.
On May 16, 2006, a Baltimore city police officer, Natalie Preston, arrested a Virginian couple for asking for directions to a major highway. The couple, released after seven hours in city jail, were not charged with any crime. They were initially taken into custody for trespassing on a public street. Their vehicle was impounded at the city lot, with windows down and doors unlocked, resulting in theft of several personal items.
In 2007, the state of Maryland passed a law requiring the automatic expungement of the record of one who is arrested, but then released without being charged, thereby eliminating the dilemma many such victims faced that would prevent them from passing a criminal background check if the record remained, but would not allow for a wrongful arrest lawsuit if the record were expunged.
On June 23, 2010, a $870,000 comprehensive settlement was reached which culminated more than a year of negotiations between the City and Plaintiffs. The settlement provides for far-reaching reforms of the BPD's arrest and monitoring practices. The suit, which was filed in 2006, and amended in 2007, was brought on behalf of thirteen individual plaintiffs and the Maryland State Conference and Baltimore City Branch of the NAACP.
Police Commissioner James M. Hepbron
Police commissioner, James M. Hepbron was subject to a hearing led by Delegate Jerome Robinson February 19, 1959, specifications against the commissioner included flouting of rights, errors in judgment and brutal concepts of policing. In the 90 day public hearing and investigation, fourth district delegate Robinson stated that the commissioner "demonstrate[d] lack of a sense of propriety and in several respects a lack of comprehension on the part of the commissioner of the nature of his duties, the functions of the department, and the obligations to the citizenry" During the public hearing Hepbron incessantly left the hearing and/or refused to answer specifications against him. Delegate Jerome Robinson, the igniter of the hearing, had a long history of challenging wiretapping and search warrants as unconstitutional, citing they violate natural rights of the citizen. During the hearing, Delegate Robinson urged the police commissioner to resign and that his resignation would be in the interest of the public. Robinson's contempt for Hepbron was clear when he wrote, "it is obvious that he has outlived his position. His administration has produced continuing deterioration and the demoralization of the department". The charges against Hepbron include unlawful wiretapping, phony evidence planted for the purpose of obtaining convictions, perjury, mass arrests and "instances of unbelievable brutality" and illegal detention, all of which had occurred in alarming numbers. Charges included, 1. Flouting of the civil and constitutional rights of the citizens of Baltimore City. Illegal taps of private and public telephone lines. 2. Errors in judgment and administration. 3. Concepts of policing which, because of brutality and insentivity, are shocking to decent thinking people.
While Hepbron's charges were ones with over a dozen wiretaps and countless hours of footage, Hebron denied to address he was acting illegally and against the courts. Delegate Robinson also cited 36 cases where the cases were dropped and/or defendants were released from penal detention because police had framed defendants and the evidence was planted for conviction. Delegate Robinson called these offenses, "a creature of commissioner Hepbron". Delegate Robinson also cited the Green Spring Avenue assault by a police officer on a 15 year old boy, as well as countless shootings of unarmed auto-thieves and illegal raids on properly licensed establishments as charges against Hepbron. At one point Robinson stated the head of the city police was "an SS officer in a Chesterfield coat who is impatient with the Bill of Rights and intolerant of the constitutional liberties and prerogatives of the people" Wiretapping was a crusade of Robinson's, believing it was against Federal law, he enacted this law to ensure state agents did not break federal law or the rights of individuals. He perceived Hepbron's actions as an affront to law and order.
Alvin J.T. Zumbrun, former managing director of the Criminal Justice Commission, issued a statement against Fourth District democrat Robinson in the police commissioner's defense. He described the charges brought against Hepbron "the utterances of an angry madman possessed with the mania to have the police commissioner removed at all costs" In addition, Zumbrun cited multiple details and instances wherein he stated that Robinson had lied, citing instances as small as a phone call, office visit or passing informal greeting by Robinson to Zumbrun. While Zumbrun's evidence never addressed actual police violations of state law, Zumbrun continued to press for the expulsion of Robinson of the General Assembly of Maryland to Governor J. Millard Tawes
Former Commissioner Ed Norris was indicted on three charges by US Attorney Thomas DiBiagio. Two of the counts charged Norris had made illegal personal expenditures from the Baltimore Police Department's supplemental account. The third count alleged that he had lied on a mortgage application, stating that approximately $9,000 he received from his father was not a gift—as was stated in the loan papers—but a loan. As part of a plea bargain in May 2004, Norris pleaded guilty to the first two counts and was sentenced to six months in federal prison, six months of home detention, and 500 hours of community service, which Judge Dick Bennett said must be served in Baltimore. The plea bargain avoided a possible 30-year sentence on the mortgage fraud charge.
Flex Squad scandal
A rash of high profile corruption and brutality allegations have surfaced in late 2005 and early 2006, including the suspensions and arrests of Southwestern District flex squad officers for the alleged rape of a 22 year old woman they had taken into custody for illegal possession of narcotics. All criminal charges against the accused officers have since been dropped.
Stories surfaced about flex squad officers planting evidence on citizens. Murder charges were dropped by the city when it was revealed that a gunman was dropped off in rival gang territory after a police interrogation in a squad car. The man was beaten badly and exacted his revenge the next day. The squad's role in the shooting prompted State's Attorney Patricia Jessamy to drop the charges.
Detectives Murray and King
Main article: William King and Antonio Murray
William A. King and Antonio L. Murray are two former Baltimore Police Department officers sentenced to a total of 454 years in prison after an FBI investigation in 2005. The conviction of King and Murray came about due to the work of the Baltimore-based Stop Snitchin' campaign, in which the two officers were identified on video as being involved in drug dealing.
On March 17, 2007, police arrested 7-year-old Gerard Mungo while sitting in front of his house on a dirtbike. Though he was seated on the dirtbike at the time of the arrest, officers reported they saw him riding it earlier. Baltimore City local law prohibits the operation of vehicles with an engine capacity of less than 50cc inside the city limits. However, police ordnances passed by city council, Article 19 Section 40-6 states that any and all unregistered motor bikes, dirt bikes, scooters, or anything similar in nature is illegal in Baltimore City. Officers stated they were "following procedure" in making a physical arrest. The boy's mother soon was arrested for disorderly conduct a few weeks later in an unrelated incident when she tried to bar plain clothes officers from entering her sister's apartment in pursuit of a felony drug suspect.
Salvatore Rivieri was a Baltimore, Maryland, police officer who came to national attention in February 2008 following the release of two videos depicting separate incidents of him verbally assaulting and manhandling citizens.
The first video was posted to YouTube on February 9, 2008 and showed Officer Rivieri berating and manhandling a 14-year-old-boy, Eric Bush, who had been skateboarding in a tourist area of Inner Harbor where skateboarding is not permitted. In the video, Rivieri threatened to "smack [Bush] upside the head" if he continued to "back-talk." Rivieri also said that someone would kill Bush if he did not learn "the meaning of respect." After the video surfaced, Rivieri was suspended with pay while the Baltimore Police Department conducted an investigation. The story made national headlines and prompted another man to come forward with footage of an earlier confrontation with the officer.
On February 15, 2008, WMAR-TV (an ABC News affiliate in Baltimore) aired a second video involving Officer Rivieri, in which he confronted an artist from Washington, DC. The artist, Billy Friebele, was making a film that depicted the reactions of passersby to a small box he was moving around a sidewalk with a remote controlled car. The footage shows Rivieri kicking the box and then the small car across the pavement before confronting Friebele.
In the wake of the incidents in April 2008, the Baltimore Police Department made wholesale changes to the leadership of the unit patrolling the city's Inner Harbor. A new lieutenant and sergeant took command of the 12 officers in charge of patrolling the area from the edge of Federal Hill to the Fallsway, near Pier 5. Sterling Clifford, a spokesman for the police department, said: "Given the extreme nature of that incident, we thought it was important for the officers to brush up on their interpersonal skills."
The mother of the boy filed a suit against Rivieri in April 2008, two months after the video was widely circulated, seeking $6 million for assault, battery and violation of rights. The city sought to have the suit dismissed, because, among other things, such claims must be filed within 180 days of the incident; but the family's attorney argued that the statute of limitations did not apply to a minor. On December 11, 2008, Baltimore Circuit Judge Marcus Z. Shar ruled that the lawsuit could proceed, despite being filed late.
On September 14, 2009, Rivieri was granted a "motion for summary judgment to dismiss" by Circuit Judge Evelyn Cannon. William P. Blackford, the attorney for the Bush family, said of the judgment: "The family is incredibly disappointed, and feels wronged...they've had their day in court taken away."
In early 2009, the Baltimore Police Department cited death threats Rivieri received after the YouTube video surfaced as a reason for implementing a new policy of not disclosing the names of police officers who shoot or kill citizens.
Rivieri was eventually cleared by an internal police panel of using excessive force and discourtesies, but convicted of administrative charges of failing to write a report. The panel recommended that he be suspended five days, but Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III disagreed and fired him.
Daniel G. Redd
On July 19, 2011, Officer Daniel G. Redd was arrested for drug trafficking. While on trial, Redd has admitted to being involved in the process to distribute heroin. Redd is believed to be the first Baltimore Police officer charged with drug trafficking since William King and Antonio Murray were charged with shaking down drug suspects and then selling the drugs themselves. Both officers received life in federal prison.
In May, 2012, Police Commissioner Frederick Bealefeld III directed a team that included agents from the FBI that used wiretaps and other techniques to break up a major corruption scandal centered around the Majestic Auto Body shop. The shop paid Baltimore police officers a fee when they called Majestic tow trucks to the scene of an accident. In all, 17 officers plead guilty to charges. At least another 37 officers were involved.
In popular culture
- The BPD was portrayed in the NBC television series Homicide: Life on the Street produced by David Simon. The show ran for seven seasons and spawned a TV movie titled Homicide: The Movie. The series was based on the book Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets. At times, there has also been crossover in stories and characters from Law & Order and Homicide: Life on the Street.
- The HBO original series The Wire (also produced and created by David Simon) features the department extensively, portraying it as a dysfunctional organization whose effectiveness is often impaired by personal vendettas and office politics.
- Of Dolls and Murder, a documentary film, follows members of the Baltimore Homicide Department as they try and solve cold cases. It also looks at The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death, a series of tiny crime scene dioramas that the Baltimore police famously use for training in forensics. These training dioramas provided inspiration for The Miniature Killer, a recurring character in the television series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.
- The TV series Rescue 911, which aired 1989-1996, often showed a Baltimore police car in the introduction to many stories.
- In NCIS, Anthony DiNozzo (played by actor Michael Weatherly) is a former Baltimore detective. DiNozzo is shown to carry the M1911 as his duty side arm.
The portrayals of Baltimore City in The Wire and Homicide: Life on the Street have received negative criticism from several notable Baltimore politicians, such as former mayor and current Maryland governor Martin O'Malley and former mayor Sheila Dixon. Both politicians have argued that the shows glorify the levels of violence within the city and give Baltimore a negative image. In contrast, the police department has been relatively supportive of the shows, stating that the crime within the city has been accurately portrayed. Several current and former members of the police force have served as technical advisors for the Baltimore based shows and some, such as former Major Gary D'Addario, have allegedly been either dismissed or forced to retire from the department for assisting the shows' producers and directors.