Jessamy playing on police distrust

August 11, 2010

Baltimore State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy responded to the endorsement of Gregg Bernstein by Police Chief Frederick H. Bealefeld III by proclaiming that "we don't want a police state in Baltimore City." Her accusation that the election of Bernstein, her opponent in the state's attorney's race, would turn Baltimore City into a police state is the most recent example of how low she will stoop in order to pander to the worst instincts of her constituency.

Ms. Jessamy has won three prior elections by appealing to voters who distrust the police and has spent 15 years in office fanning the flames of that antipathy. At times, the sole function of her spokesperson, Margaret Burns, appears to consist of carping publicly about the performance of Baltimore City police officers.

No one wants or expects the state's attorney to be a rubber stamp for the police department. At the same time, anyone with an ounce of sense understands that the working relationship between these two law enforcement agencies demands that complaints and criticisms be aired in private.

It is no coincidence that the relationship between the two agencies has deteriorated dangerously while Ms. Jessamy has been the state's attorney. A major problem with the criminal justice system in the city is that witnesses refuse to cooperate with both police and prosecutors, a problem that she has made worse by routinely attacking the credibility and competence of police officers. Her constant posturing may be good for her politically, but it has been very bad for the city.

Given the rate of crime and the ineffectiveness of her office, Ms. Jessamy cannot run her record, so she has found a new campaign theme: Re-elect me so that Baltimore City does not become a police state. If the residents of the city continue to elect to office a state's attorney who casts herself primarily in the role of protecting citizens against the police, rather than against criminals, they can expect little improvement in the city's efforts to fight crime.

David A. Plymyer, Millersville

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