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by Peter Moskos

May 7, 2016

Page Croyder's on the trials of the Baltimore Six

Consistently Croyder provides excellent legal analysis of the Baltimore trials.



David Woycechowsky said...

I like her acknowledgement that police officers sometimes plant evidence. Lot of long time prosecutors get kind of credulous about that.

Anonymous said...

David, I think it's safe to say we all already knew you'd love that part.

Moving on, I think it's interesting that even the Baltimore Sun is pointing out that Mosby is in uncharted waters.


Unknown said...

Ha, I too thought of David when I read that line and knew he would post.

The thing about conspiracy theories, and the rampant planting of evidence by police officers qualifies here as a conspiracy theory, is that they are based on a false belief in the competency in humans and organizations. In short, people aren't competent enough to successfully conduct conspiracies and get away with them without fundamentally changing the power structures that maintains order. This is created by a desire on the part of the believer to believe that if people are powerful enough to cause all of our problems at will, people are also powerful enough to fix them at will.

Will a Michael Slager move a piece of evidence, AKA plant it, to make him seem less guilty after committing a criminal act? Obviously it has occurred. Does the average cop carry a little dope or a drop weapon as David apparently fantasizes about though? Um, no.

The guy needs to gain some perspective. My agency just had a minor ado regarding cop strongly "suggesting" to a theft suspect that she should drop her meth pipe on the ground after the cop found it conducting a consent search looking for stolen property. Another officer called the offending officer out officially. If this sort of things gets play in an organization, who the hell would be planting evidence as a rule?

David, here is a message from an actual practicing street cop. Every cop I know learned early in his or her career that suspects get off regularly for even serious offenses. The idea that we would risk our careers and pensions for a shit-bird getting another 6 hours in jail is disgustingly ignorant. A case can be made for a Michael Slager level of fuck-up and attempt at self-preservation, but even as counted by the most cop-hating counters, those incidents are rare enough that they stand out. Nobody. NOBODY bothers to make a case with fake evidence. There's plenty of legitimate work out there for those few cops motivated to engage in it.

Andy D said...


In addition I think that the increase in In-car cameras, body cameras and forensics makes planting such things even less likely. Maybe there was a time when a 'throw-down" gun or knife, or some "throw-dope" was a more common thing especially in urban policing. Anymore, I can't even come up with a realistic way that I could get away with it if I wanted to in a serious case, and like you said in a less serious case where they aren't going to find my DNA on that knife or trace that gun to wherever I dug it up I don't personally know any cop who would bother. its not like you can't make another low-level lockup just about any time you want if you try.

Interestingly, about the trials, I think Ms. Croyder is pretty good in her analysis about Nero and Miller's cases. I find it hard to believe that they could be convicted if the judge analyzes the actual facts of the cases instead of bowing to political pressure. I'd be pretty nervous if I was Nero, however, and very worried that Judge Williams isn't going to give the facts a fair hearing.

Anonymous said...

"My agency just had a minor ado regarding cop strongly "suggesting" to a theft suspect that she should drop her meth pipe on the ground after the cop found it conducting a consent search looking for stolen property..."

Why? Because he didn't want to charge her or inventory it?

Moskos said...

Yeah, I was wondering that, too.

Unknown said...

@ Thorn, that's pretty much it. Doesn't make any sense as the officer wrote a report anyway. I get why no arrest or charges were made when only the pipe and no stolen property was found due to our management and prosecuting agency making it increasingly clear they would prefer we not make discretionary arrests for things like residue dope. (especially so when the dope was found on a consent search) Discipline didn't result in days off, only official counseling, but will if it happens again. It was obviously not necessary though as three viable options existed: arrest and take the pipe as evidence, don't arrest and take the pipe as found property for destruction, poke around the pipe in the purse and never acknowledge finding it.

The point was to illustrate how poor decisions with property have consequences even when no charges were issued, the property in question is contraband, destroyed by the owner (admittedly coerced), and something that the least harm groups hand out for free along with needles. It was also to point out that if we're turning legitimate dope arrests down, who the hell is planting evidence on equally unwanted cases?

Moskos said...

I can account for my fair share of drugs and paraphernalia crushed in the gutters and/or dropped in the sewers of East Baltimore. Sometimes it's the right thing to do.

Andrew Laurence said...

In the end of your book you mentioned how a Dutch cop told you that returning a dime bag of heroin to a user upon release from jail would result in one fewer car being broken into. Your last comment would suggest that you don't agree or don't care, or possibly that it's a cultural difference between Baltimore and Amsterdam. Which is it?

Moskos said...

God, I love a close reading!

I do think it's a cultural difference. But that said, it isn't even the culture of Dutch police. But this guy did it. But it's not allowed. Even there. But it made sense to me.

American cops would face much more trouble -- potentially a lot of trouble -- for handing contraband back to a criminal. We have to follow the law on such matters.

Also, it was more than a dime bag, if I remember correctly!

Andrew Laurence said...

Thanks for your response. I just assumed it was a dime bag because the cop said it would prevent just one car break-in. I understand that cops have to follow the law, but your comment made it sound like you thought this law is just, whereas the anecdote in your book implies the opposite.

Moskos said...

Whatever I said in my book is correct, but in my recollection (many years later) the cop said it would be a "few days" before his next car break-in. And the moderate size of the baggie seemed to support this claim.

Anyway, this addict today, is probably getting free heroin from the government that gives the drug away to (only to) older hard-core addicts.