Baltimore's police commissioner took aim at city judges and liquor board inspectors as he defended his officers and called for more accountability from residents and others to solve the crime problem.
Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III said during a radio appearance Tuesday on WBAL that sentences for crimes committed against African-Americans in Baltimore are too often light, something he said was "beyond human comprehension. All of us should be outraged."
He referred to a case reported in The Baltimore Sun on Tuesday in which Circuit Judge John Addison Howard sentenced two men to two years each in prison after they were convicted of second-degree assault in the kidnapping and torture of two teenagers in an attempt to elicit information about a stolen PlayStation. Family members said the teens did not have criminal records and were coming home from school when they were abducted.
"Those guys got fairly nominal sentences for some heinous stuff that they did to these kids, and if it happened in a white neighborhood in any other community in this state, we'd still be talking about it, and people would be talking about life sentences," Bealefeld said during an interview with radio host Clarence M. Mitchell IV. "And these people get out essentially with a slap on the wrist. People need to be speaking out about this."
Bealefeld said police are too often used as scapegoats, making an apparent reference to recent attacks in and around certain city nightclubs. He said police are doing what they can but need others to "step up and do their jobs," specifically mentioning liquor inspectors.
The Police Department recently padlocked a club linked to violence, and Bealefeld barred officers last year from working secondary jobs outside establishments that serve alcohol, saying business owners were using police as a crutch.
"The smoke screen is, if you just get those lazy cops to do more, or if you hire more cops, or if you spend more on overtime - the cops, the cops, the cops," he said. "It becomes a distraction for the real issue, which is people's behavior. It comes down to accountability.
"I'm going to work my tail off to hold city cops and commanders accountable, but at the end of the day, we need a lot of other principals to step up and do their part as well."
"Everybody wants to mind their business. Everybody thinks it's someone else's job to do everything - it's someone else's job to teach kids at school, it's someone else's job to raise them, to get them from this point to that point. Damn it, people have to step up and be accountable."