Let Baltimore police take back the streets

Charles F. Milland

September 09, 1992|By Charles F. Milland

THE violence on the streets of Baltimore -- the drug-related shootouts, the drive-by shootings, the innocent bystanders caught in the deadly cross-fire between New York and local drug dealers -- all of it could be brought to a screeching halt by your local police right now, if you Baltimoreans and your politicians have the will to make it happen.

I have been a cop in this town for more than 22 years, and there aren't very many street officers I don't know or haven't met. You may not realize it, but we Baltimoreans have an outstanding Police Department, staffed by some of the finest, most dedicated people you could ever meet. They know who the criminals are.

The problem is your police officers have had increasingly tighter knots tied around their hands over the years by a legal system that seems more concerned with the rights of hoodlums than with the ability of honest folks to walk the streets in safety. As a result, things are getting progressively worse, and just when you think you've seen the most egregious criminal act, whoops -- there's another outrage.

What's the answer? Marches in the streets by concerned residents? Linking arms across town? Pleas from local leaders for the killers of our children to stop the violence? Do you really think any of this matters to the criminal element? Do you honestly think criminals care that you're upset?

The truth is they don't give a rat's posterior for you, your family, your community, your safety, your peace of mind, your business or anything else of importance to you. They think you're a bunch of chumps for being honest and footing all the bills for the messes they leave behind. All they care about is getting what they want while avoiding unpleasant consequences.

Modern criminals have no fear of incarceration. In many cases, they'll live better in the slammer than they do on the outside. Being locked up is, however, an inconvenience for these thugs, even if it's only temporary. It interferes with their illegal pursuit of your money, your life, your car and your possessions. Every day a criminal stays behind bars brings him one day closer to the end of his miserable, destructive life, and it's also one less day that he can victimize you.

So if you dare, and if your political leaders dare, here's what will stop the violence tomorrow: Give your police the go-ahead on getting the thugs and their dope and their drugs off the streets. Have the mayor and City Council tell Commissioner Edward V. Woods to inform his men and women that for a certain time, say 30 days, no complaints against police officers will be entertained by the Police Department for frisking suspicious people on the streets, or for searching vehicles suspected of containing drugs or weapons. Tell your police that in the event someone sues an officer and wins a judgment against him or her for such a complaint, the city of Baltimore will cover the legal expenses and the judgment. Tell your cops that you're ready for some peace and quiet and safety, and that you want them to go out there and nail the bums who have been making things so dangerous for everybody.

Believe me, your officers know who those parties are, and we'd love to be able to go after them. Guess what'll happen. (I've discussed this with a number of street police.) The first day we'll surprise a lot of bad guys, lock up a bunch of them, get a lot of guns off the street and confiscate a lot of dope. The second day will be more of the same, but the word will rapidly get around that it's not business as usual in Baltimore anymore; the cops are taking back the streets.

The third day should bring a noticeable decrease in violence and a return to a more civilized way of life. The criminals would know that they're not going to be permitted to continue carrying and using weapons with impunity, that they're not going to be permitted to continue dealing poison to our community and that they're not going to be permitted to continue to intimidate honest people. We won't let them.

They won't dare go out packing a gun! They'll be frisked and arrested. They won't dare go out selling drugs! Their cars will be towed away and perhaps forfeited to the state under existing drug laws designed to financially cripple drug operations. They won't dare bother honest citizens in their travels! (Don't forget we know who they are.)

It can happen if you and the politicians have the will. Do they? Do you?

Charles F. Milland is a lieutenant in the Baltimore Police Department and the legislative chairman of the Fraternal Order of Police, Baltimore city lodge.

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