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by Peter Moskos

September 26, 2010

A fresh start with a new State's Attorney?

People normally don't get very excited over the elections of a State's Attorney. But the recent election lose of Patricia Jessamy (and victory for Gregg Bernstein) is the most exiting crime-fighting development in Baltimore in many years.

Peter Hermann has a good story in the Sun about the potential for corporation between police and prosecutors.

In my last post on this, people asked for examples of why Jessamy was no good. I give some in my book, Cop in the Hood. And Hermann provides more examples of the typical B.S. that came from her office:
Another minor and long-forgotten skirmish in what has been a years-long war between Jessamy and most if not all of the six police commissioners who ran the department during her 15-year tenure as Baltimore's elected top prosecutor.
She kept a list of officers she deemed untrustworthy and unable to take the witness stand, effectively ending their careers, even if nothing was ever proved.

She once required a minimum 30 rocks of crack cocaine or vials of heroin to bring a felony drug charge.

And she had a standing practice of not prosecuting homicides and some other crimes in which police had only one witness, even if there was other evidence.
[In one case] Her staff agreed to a plea deal and a suspended sentence ... even though the victim begged to testify at a trial.... The suspect got out of jail [and two-years later was] charged with robbing three women at gunpoint and abducting a college student.
A few months ago, a prosecutor dropped a robbery charge against a man.... The suspect was later charged with fatally stabbing Johns Hopkins researcher Steven Pitcairn in Charles Village.
Read the whole story here.

Now Everything Jessamy said and did wasn't crazy. Sometimes she was right. Sometimes police are deserving of criticism and need a little slap to keep them honest and grounded in reality. But it's possible to criticize police and still be pro-police. Jessamy wasn't. With her constant harassment, Baltimore cops didn't work better. We get demoralized and wondered why we're putting our life on the line. I worked hard and her office let people walk. Why bother?

Think about this: Al Sharpton is at times a lying libelous self-aggrandizing anti-police buffoon. But the NYPD probably does a better job because of his existence. Still, I wouldn't want Al Sharpton to be District Attorney (New York's equivalent of the State's Attorney). Baltimore doesn't have an Al Sharpton. Maybe it needs one, but that anti-police attitude shouldn't come from the Office of State's Attorney.

She's the prosecutor. She's supposed to partner with police and be anti-criminal.


Anonymous said...

The one about the list of untrustworthy officers seems like a good idea -- exactly what a state's atty should be doing.

The one about the Pitcairn stabbing -- not enough info to tell if it was good or bad.

The other ones do seem bad, though. Hope the new guy keeps the list, but changes the other rules.

PCM said...

"I have here in my hand a list of 205 names known to the State's Attorney as being untrustworthy and who nevertheless are still working and shaping the policy of the Baltimore City Police Department."

Now where have I heard this before?

If these police officers were so untrustworthy, why didn't she prosecute them? That was her job, right?

If she can't prosecute them, why didn't she let them go? That's want she always asked the police department to do.

(Or at least allow the officers a way to her accusations, defend themselves, and get off her secret list.)

ballmerboy said...

I live in Baltimore. I want the State's Attorney to be pro-justice, not pro-cop.

As for cops putting their lives on the line everyday. Get over yourselves. Being a cop isn't nearly as dangerous as being a fisherman, a logger, a truck driver, or a construction worker

PCM said...

How great that Patricia Jessamy herself has decided to post a comment!

As for policing being dangerous, being an officer in Baltimore City is far more dangerous.

Anonymous said...

I like the idea of making the "untrustworthy list" public (instead of secret) and I like the idea of giving poicemen on the untrustworthy list an option of having a hearinng to get off of it.

If the policeman can prove by a "preponderance of the evidence" that he IS trustworthy, the he should be allowed the privilege (and it is a privilege) of testifying in uniform again.

This definitely how the new guy should handle the list. Thanks for the input, Prof. Moskos.