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by Peter Moskos

August 4, 2008

Good stuff!

I received this email a while back from a Baltimore Cop who transferred elsewhere. I'm protected his identity (of course) by blocking out a few details with ****. (By the way, I think the "proper" spelling of "screet" is with a K, but that's a minor issue.) This is good stuff. perhaps even better than my book:

Much like a person's upbringing in life influences some of their behavior and personality, my training, or "upbringing" as a cop, if you will, in Baltimore will continually influence how I police. I find myself very different from many of my current co-workers. I am more jaded and uncompassionate. I want every suspect to go to jail (which rarely happens here in ****).

Thug life and the ghetto is another aspect of Baltimore I will never forget. Again, I grew up in **** and graduated with 5 or so African Americans out of 225. Not much contact. However, after 4 years in Baltimore, I am fluent in "ghettoese" (p62). "Peoples" "Hair-ron" "bounce" "up the screet" "on the corna" and "hoppers" are among my favorites.

In regards to the ghetto, from my * years in Baltimore, I agree with the thought (p39) about not blaming poverty and racism for the ghetto life and wanting to "napalm the whole area" (I wish I had a dollar every time I heard that). It was hard as a white upper-middle class conservative male to feel sorry for African Americans there, but in the same light, I agree with the "hate everybody philosophy"(p40). My partner (white male) and I, knew when we saw a white junkie in the ghetto, they were getting locked up for something. Fair or not, that is how I played the game.

One of the thoughts I am in agreement with many of the other officer's in the book is the negative opinion of "junkies." Drugs never had an impact on anyone in my family, any of my friends family growing up, or for that matter even in our community (it was unheard of). I took that with me to Baltimore. I was naive, but also cold and uncompassionate, and to this day I still am.

My opinion of junkies (pp43-46) is that they are, "not even considered people ... Who gives a flying fuck about a junkie!?" (My wife actually got mad at me during the reading of the book because I continually interjected my thoughts about this issue: "****, you are not in Baltimore anymore, let it go," she says). It's difficult to let it go, especially when you experience it firsthand and are so disgusted with it. I will never forget stopping a male junkie (Pennsylvania Avenue market, heroin shop), telling him to give me his tools, whereby he proceeded to bend over, spread his butt cheeks and show me a capped needle shoved into his anus. And people wonder how I got to be so bitter.

Departmentally, I found your thoughts and opinions on point. Without a doubt, there is an unwritten quota at work. In flex it never bothered me because I locked a lot of people up, but regardless, we still heard about having to beat the other flex and bike squads in stats. During the latter part of my career in Baltimore, officers were temporarily transferred to other districts as punishment for poor stats. Yeah, that makes sense, send a poor producing officer to an unfamiliar district and ask them to produce. Command staff, you are genius!

District and Circuit Court was a joke. Officer's working until 3 or 4 am and then expected to be in court by 9am. And they wonder why officer's FTA'd [failure to appear]. I had court 5 days a week sometimes. I was never one for overtime; I wanted my free time. Talk about burnout. Court was one of the top reasons I wanted to leave Baltimore after my four years.

I could write a lot more about the book, but I think it would be easier to just say I am in agreement with your thoughts about Baltimore policing, and leave it simply at that. I recommend this book to people curious about "real"(?) police work!

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