State's attorney and police: a new relationship to fix a broken system

March 08, 2011

If Baltimore's state's attorney and police department manage to forge a relationship that finds them working together, rather than in opposition, the citizens will benefit. ("Approach to police crimes is changing," March 8)

We have in Baltimore what I refer to as a criminal justice non-system. Baltimore is not alone; the same holds true on a national scale. The word "system" connotes an amalgamation of otherwise separate entities conjoined with a single purpose and acting in unison and agreement to meet a shared goal. In the case of the criminal justice system, the goal is obviously the dispensing of criminal justice.

We, in Baltimore and the nation, suffer from the irrefutable fact that the criminal justice system is not a system at all; the component entities are quite often at odds with one another. The system is broken, and its effectiveness only marginal.

There is also another fact: that the police are the most successful and productive component of this non-system. How, you may ask? The correctional facilities are filled to capacity with people who have been arrested by the police. The court dockets are inundated with pending cases of people who have been arrested by the police. The prosecutors are similarly swamped with these cases, so much so that they are dealing good cases away. Corrections cannot handle their "police-generated" workload. Neither can the courts, nor the prosecutors, so they tend to work in opposition, to lessen this workload, rather than in harmony.

You may also ask: Is the system buried by overzealous police? I would counter with, is the system buried because of the inordinate degree of lawlessness in our society? Both of these are legitimate questions, needing study. But, the fact of the matter is that until this non-system becomes a viable, working and productive system, it will remain marginally effective. What is happening in Baltimore between the police and the new state's attorney is a first step in the right direction.

Robert DiStefano

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