Sunday, February 24, 2008

Street Patrols in the Northern

Buz was on his way home from his nonprofit job last Thursday night when he saw two Northern District units roll up to the pizza joint in the 5200 block of York Road. (A not-so-nice stretch of York Road after dark.) They parked their cars in the middle of the street (a sort of de facto turn lane) and went into the shop where the call for service apparently originated on this blustery, cold, windy night. The trouble seemed to be over, so I continued south into Charles Village.

There I observed a city officer working in uniform off-duty in one of Hopkins' "Campus Patrol" vehicles observing the scene at 32nd and St. Paul. Hopkins was careful to mark there cars with signage very similar to the logos on city police vehicles The streets were full of people (about 9pm), and it was a lively campus scene. Video Americain was crowded and well-lit.

The new condos/apartments in 3201 St. Paul were mostly dark (only a few have been sold), and on the west side of that block was the empty lot where rowhouses and stores used to be. Buz wondered why anyone would spend so much money on a condo there--unless you were working at Hopkins (and well paid, not a poor campus security guard).


ppatin said...

Do you have any advice for dealing with suspected fake police officers? This weekend I met someone who was assaulted by a couple of criminals pretending to be undercover cops in Fed Hill a few weeks ago, and then in today's blotter there was a mention of crooks posing as cops in the Southeastern District. I'm guessing the best thing to do is to immediately ask to see a badge or police ID if someone in plainclothes try to stop or search you. Obviously I wouldn't want to resist/cause trouble with real undercover cops, but is it safe to assume that if the person refuses to show a badge he isn't actually a police officer?

buzoncrime said...

Sorry for the slow reply--been busy.

It is safe to assume that, but it is not always the case. I dunno. Some of those stories I hear are pretty bad--like that UNIFORMED cop who came out of his marked patrol car and punched an undercover from Internal Affairs without any conversation or provocation. What a piece of shit!

This wildness started years ago with a policy of allowing officrs to wear plainclothes in almost every "drug-related" or crime-suppression unit. Give me a break! You'd see officers swaggering around with full issue gunbelts, baseball hats on backwards, shorts in the summer, etc.; yet they had badges around their necks, and often wore "raid jackets" with big letters and badges saying "police" on them. (Sometimes, when cars were short, they even drove marked cars.) Buz always wondered what sort of fantasy life some of these guys were living--The French Connection, Superfly or what. But it seemed to take on a life of its own. Whew, sorry for the rant.

But, to answer your question, it's pretty contextual and commonsensical, I hope. Most cops working plainclothes will have their badges around their neck nowadays in a holder on a lanyard. They will often have a jacket with a logo or badge or the word "police" on it somewhere. You'll will usually see and hear their walkie-talkies blabbering away and often see their handcuffs, and equipment belt with their guns on them. If they're legitimate, they'll immediately identify themselves as police and display their badges.

Usually, false police (and perverted real ones) will pick on or pull over single women. They also swoop on people using or buying drugs in an isolated area. Bounty Hunter and bouncer/security types buy all sorts of police-type stuff. My guess is that if you're already the alert type who might possibly resist or cause trouble, the fake ones are going to stay away from you. They'll operate, usually in bad areas or pick on bar-hoppers on the fringes of places like Federal Hill.

I think the real ones in most cases will make themselves pretty apparent. (People who are doing nothing wrong have only a small chance of ever encountering a plainclothes officer--unless you are in a high crime area. And yes, they do jump out of cars there and assume that everyone assumes they are police--at least if they're white officers).

Bottom line: if they're going to rob you and they're falseies, there's probably not much you can do. By the time you ask for a badge, it'll be over. If they're real, you'll probably already see the badge.

By the way, undercover is probably not a good term. Undercover cops would never stop you and profess to being police. They would just buy drugs from people. Often you would not know who they were. We're talking about police in plainclothes here. They apparently just wear them to blend in more--and it's fun not to be in uniform: they're elite!

ppatin said...

Very interesting, and thank you for the detailed response.