It’s been a rough year for the image of Baltimore law enforcement and 2013 is not even half over.
*May 9: A teenage prostitute is arrested in an undercover sting at a hotel near BWI. The man who allegedly drove her there was waiting outside. His identity? Her husband, a Baltimore police officer. He was charged with human trafficking.
*April 25: A grand jury indictment about gangland corruption at the Baltimore City Detention Center is unsealed. Among those rounded up are four female corrections officers who were allegedly having sex with the inmates, including a female officer who is believed to have been twice impregnated by the gang’s leader.
*March 11: A 17-year veteran Baltimore police detective pleads guilty to selling heroin and tipping off drug kingpins about possible police investigations.
*Feb. 17: Two men, one a Baltimore firefighter, are arrested on charges of running an online prostitution ring.
If it were a television show, you could call it Cops Allegedly Gone Wild.
Baltimore law enforcement administrators are baffled at the turn of events. The city police cases come only a few months after officials announced Jan. 28 the formation of a professional standards bureau.
“This new Bureau will focus on employee conduct from the basics of written directives and Standard Operating Procedures, to a new General Accountability Office which will continue to proactively weed out non-compliant practices within the department,” said Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts in a release on the BPD’s website.
Then came the string of cases which have put a cloud over the reputation of the city’s law enforcement corps.
“The attitude of the police officers on the street is a reflection of the leadership at the top,” said Delacy Davis, founder of Black Cops Against Police Brutality (BCAP).
“If the top sends a clear message that behavior outside of the law is unacceptable and intolerable, then everyone will get that message all the way down the line.”
Davis, a retired sergeant from the East Orange (N.J.) Police Department, told the AFRO that corrupt officers should be handled “firmly and by the law.” Through BCAP, Davis teaches community members, especially Blacks and Latinos, how to effectively deal with corrupt cops in a law-bidding manner.
Lamin Manneh and Braun-Manneh, who was charged with prostitution, have been released on their own recognizance pending a court appearance on June 4.
“This allegation is a disgrace and embarrassment to every member—both current and retired—who serve with the Baltimore Police Department,” said Deputy Commissioner Jerry Rodriguez, in a statement to WJZ. “The alleged actions and criminal charges brought against Mr. Manneh are serious and undermine the integrity and pride of this organization.”
The most shocking of the cases, however, took place within the institution charged with keeping lawbreakers sequestered from the general public. On April, 25 people— including 13 prison guards—were nabbed in a federal racketeering indictment that included money laundering, drug trafficking and other crimes.
Officials said corrections officers were impregnated by inmates and the Black Guerilla Family (BGF), a prison and street gang, gained control over the Baltimore City Detention Center.
Wendell Watkins, a former D.C. police administrator, said the agencies affected by the accusations need to clamp down immediately.
“They have a lot of work to do,” said Watkins. “That whole thing with integrity is not something you can do at one time when they are in the academy. It is something you have to do all the time. When complaints come in, they have to be investigated. They have to get Internal Affairs out there and observe the officers who are drawing those complaints.”
Each year officers go through psychological evaluations to ensure they are capable of performing their job effectively. Psychology Consultant Associated (PCA), a mental health facility located in Lutherville, Md., services officers daily.
“They [officers] are our local military. They have a really tough job and you have to think about that,” said Loretta Elizalde, a licensed clinical professional counselor at PCA.
She said corruption could occur through “the desensitization of seeing the same thing over and over again.” She also said that witnessing crime and living in a violent environment can make people more prone to committing unlawful acts.
Watkins disagreed. The people charged with upholding the law are the ones who should be most responsible for abiding by it, he said. He said officers should be reminded constantly by their supervisors to avoid wrongdoing. Police should be least susceptible to giving in to the temptation of the streets because they know what’s out there, Watkins said.
“When police start straddling that line, it gets harder and harder to get back,” he said. “That’s when they end up getting caught and going to jail, disgraced, or even worse, dead.”