Thursday, December 17, 2009

Buz gets dispersed!

Buz read with interest all the hullabaloo about the community activist and leader in Union Square who got arrested, then unarrested, then got cited in a beef with one of the Southern District boys in blue. Basically, he calls the police, they come, then the stories diverge. Ultimately, he's told to go in his house or get locked up. Now, he being a good law-abiding citizen and all, knows that he doesn't have to, especially if he's not doing anything wrong, and he's standing on his own porch.
Well, the officer would see about that!
Now, look, we weren't there, and all we know is what we read, but usually there's two sides to a story; sorry, officer, that's the best i can do here. As far as the gentleman/landlord/community supporter of the police goes, Buz detects a whiff of "don't you know who I am".
Well, here's my little story--summed up sorta twitter style:
Buz sees a police car with its lights flashing a couple blocks away from his house.
Another police car comes rolling up, lights also flashing, blocks intersection.
Nosey ole Buz goes up to see what going on.
2nd officer has three tough-looking guys sitting on the curb, while 1st officer has 4th tough-looking guy giving some info while he's in his car.
Buz asks elderly black lady in another car if she's ok; she says the other car hit her, but she's ok, just thirsty.
I ask if she wants me to get some water for her; she says no, her friend's on the way.
2nd officer, tough, fit young guy comes over: "do you live around here, sir"?
Yes, says me.
Are you involved with this accident?
No, says me.
Well, says officer, I need you to leave the area. This is an accident investigation!
Now, Buz could have left the old lady, stood up way on the sidewalk out of the way, and said: I'm not interfering, I have every right to stand on this public street and watch!
Did we do that?!
There's little doubt in Buz's pea brain that this officer would have ignored all the tough guys, and arrested Buz, who was wearing a nice polo shirt (tucked in his nice khaki pants), sporting no tattoos, and not wearing any baseball caps--sideways or otherwise. He may even have enjoyed using the Tazer and rubbing it in at Central Booking.
Moral of story: ya can't fight city hall in the person of the cop on the beat, whether he's right or not--unless...............well, unless you want to end up like Mr. Taylor of Union Square.

Or, to paraphrase Peter Moskos, the Bmore cop turned Ph.D., you don't have to respect him, or agree with him, but you must obey him.

So, Buz, who spent nearly 30 years in the Baltimore Police Department, gets dispersed. Yeah, his arrest might have been dropped and illegal, but who wants to visit Central Booking, the 7th outer circle of hell?

So, the district commander, and the department was placed in an awkward position by this aggressive officer. They cannot openly criticize him, because the "arrestee" may sue. But betcha (4-1), this officer doesn't get a gravy special unit job anytime soon. And, yeah, we're amazed at how aggressive the Baltimore Police are after having gone to that fancy, schmancy, Adam Walinsky training this year, and we're hoping that same aggressiveness is keeping the crime down this year. But maybe a nuance or two, guys?


BaltimoreGal said...

Where have you BEEN? I've missed your blogs.

I can't argue with anything you've said here, Buz. I do think the community leader overreacted (which led to his arrest) and I do understand why police can be paranoid at times. They are often targets.

But they know damn well when they are crossing the line. They need to have the wherewithal to stop, think, and be the better party. There are too many problems with police perception in this city to have issues like this get in the way.

buzoncrime said...

Oh, sorry, BaltimoreGal--- I've been busy lately; however, I am following you on Twitter.
I've made a lot of interfering with police and disorderly arrests in my time, but I was always legal, and don't think I ever got anybody standing on their front step.
I think a lot of people in the city don't like the police, and the meeting they set up to talk about this arrest, just brings them out of the woodwork.
I wonder what made the officer so angry; was it really for no reason, or was it something Taylor said? Who knows?
I know I always used to hate people who said: "I'll bet you don't know who I am?"
In any event, we still need a police force in this post-industrial, drug and poverty-wracked city, and most of them are ok guys and gals, and some of them are really nice. But, this whole Compstat mentality has made them a little too much "us against them".
By the way, despite Mr. Taylor's heroic efforts that area is and has been very crime-ridden for a long time. Couldn't help but wonder where his rental properties are, and what they look like, and what he charges for rent , though.

Anonymous said...

Can you please explain the "Compstat mentality" and how that translates into an "us against them" environment between the cops and citizens?

buzoncrime said...

Dear Anonymous---
Compstat, as you probably already know, is the famous (infamous?) crime meeting held weekly by the brass to "discuss" crime trends in our lovely city.

Compstat is a made-up word for computers and statistics.
Neither of those two words are terribly humanistic or nuanced or filled with discretion or judgment. Os and 1s, you know, fill a computer's brain, and simply provide a quick way to get a lot of information; ok, as far as that goes. Statistics are simply a reporting of data.

So, at the Compstat meetings, commanders are grilled as to "crime trends" in their areas, and what they are doing about them. The response to crime, typically, is: arrests, "field interviews" with stop and "frisks", warrant checks, tickets, and car stops. Ok: Buz knows some of that is important and necessary. But many of our young cops, as suggested by my post, are moved to consider all of us a possible "stat". Everyone is a possible suspect. People who live in high-crime areas are especially subject to the scrutiny of being a possible "enemy".
Peter Hermann earlier this year related how police came into a hardware store in Southwest Baltimore, pulled a guy outside, frisked him, didn't find anything, let him go back in to shop for supplies for his handyman job. All in a day's work.
The owner of the store mentioned that sometimes when he takes his trash out back, he is stopped and frisked. All in an effort to find something, anything, to charge him with and get a cheap arrests.
Officers are judged often, on how many arrests and citations one "produces"; the rest of the work becomes irrelevant.
As one high-ranking officer answered when Buz was a lieutenant and asked about the high priority given to arrests: "well, what else is there?".
Um, quality of service? [But ya can't easily measure that at Compstat.]
So, it evolves to the point where this Southern District officer felt that any complaints the little girls made wasn't that important; he had other stuff to do, and here is this "moron" getting in the way of something else to do. And disrespecting him, too!

And this isn't just happening in high-crime areas. Buz had a judge (now retired) tell me that he was driving to work down Roland Avenue to the courthouse when he encountered a radar "trap" that the gendarmes had set up.
He thought one of the officers had directed him to pull over--so he did. The officer shouted: "Not you! Get the fuck out of here!"
I asked the judge if he made a complaint. Answer: why bother? I just wanted to get to court. What would be the point? (paraphrasing).
So my point is , Anonymous, that I'm not a big fan of Compstat. You don't need a fancy room with fancy maps and light show, (and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a Compstat room), and silly grilling of a commander who's expected to know every little detail of every crime in his/her (are there any hers?) district. And Compstat often has been used by high commanders to play "Gotcha", a game where they know something about a case or trend that you don't. Any why don't you, Major? So they can belittle commanders they don't like, and tout the magnificent performance of their mentees.

Hope this helps shed some light into the mysterious workings of my old police brain on that topic.