A modified muffin recipe was a good vehicle for transporting a whole mess of leftover baked cod (pankoed, with lemon and capers) into something entirely different: cod cakes, reinvented.
By Van Smith
Published in City Paper, Apr. 6, 2005
At 6:08 p.m. on Thursday, March 27, 2003, an anonymous tipster calls Baltimore City 911 and describes a black man wearing a blue baseball cap, a white shirt, and blue jeans, dealing drugs at the corner of Pratt Street and Ellwood Avenue in East Baltimore. The stash, the caller says, is in a brown paper bag in some bushes next to a corner house there. Three minutes later, 41-year-old Baltimore City Police patrol officer Jacqueline Folio is the first to respond to the scene, where Patterson Park butts up to Highlandtown Middle School.
A 14-year veteran with two stints as a police academy instructor under her belt, Folio makes fleeting eye contact with a young man who fits the description, as he walks away from the area with two friends. Folio radios in the suspect’s location and proceeds to recover a brown paper bag from under the bushes. It contains money and suspected cocaine in baggies. A block away, on the opposite side of the school, other officers collar the suspect, 18-year-old Leon Burgess. A half-hour after the phone call, Burgess is on his way to Central Booking. Folio completes the paperwork, charging Burgess with possession with intent to distribute cocaine, then submits the evidence to headquarters at 9 p.m.
By all appearances, it’s a routine drug arrest, done with speed and efficiency, wrapped up neatly and ready for the courts in a matter of hours. But by midnight, it’s Folio, not Burgess, who’s in hot water. Two years later, she still is, because the whole incident was a setup, a police integrity sting designed and conducted by the BPD’s Internal Affairs Division to see if a cop fails to turn in abandoned drugs and money.
Folio properly submitted the contraband, but in her sworn statement charging Burgess with the crime, she seemed to state that she’d seen Burgess place the bag in the bushes. “Prior to the call being received by Agent Folio, the officer was patrolling that particular area and observed three B/M’s at the intersection of E. Pratt St. and S. Ellwood Ave.,” Folio wrote in her statement of probable cause to charge Burgess. “Agent Folio observed one of the B/M’s described as wearing a dark colored baseball cap, white T-shirt, and jean shorts place an object onto the ground behind a bush located against the NW wall of that corner. This individual is further identified as the def. Burgess.”
On March 28, 2003, Folio learned she was in trouble, and was immediately suspended. Although she had no obligation to do so, she wanted to give a statement about the incident because she believed she could convince investigators—or even a grand jury, if it came to that—that she was innocent. She got that opportunity on June 6, 2003, when she waived her rights under the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights and provided a voluntary statement to Internal Affairs. The department wasn’t convinced; a week later, on June 12, the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office indicted her criminally for perjury and misconduct, saying she’d purposefully lied under oath in order to maliciously pin false charges on Burgess.
The Folio indictment appeared to confirm a bad-cop stereotype—the aggressive enforcer who works poor, black neighborhoods and already has a good idea who’s guilty and who’s not, making it easy to pin false charges on a passer-by and rationalize it as removing trouble from the street before it actually happens. It’s offensive, it’s unconstitutional, it’s criminal, and it’s happened before. And Folio’s sworn statement of charges is what it is: Her statement reads that she saw Burgess “place” the stash behind the bush. In order to convict her, the state’s attorney was going to have to prove criminal intent—that Folio did it on purpose.
In December 2003, Folio was acquitted of the criminal charges by Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Lynn Stewart, who didn’t explain her verdict but apparently bought Folio’s apologetic explanation. Folio testified that the allegedly false statement in Burgess’ charging documents was not intentional and malicious, as the prosecution argued, but the result of vagueness due to a run-on sentence.
“I know what happened that day was clearly in good faith on my part,” Folio said on the stand. “When I say ‘observed’ in my probable cause statement, I was trying to say that I observed the individual who was described by the caller. And when I use the word ‘describe,’ that was based upon the information I received from the caller—that this person, in fact, did fit the description that was given out.”
At the criminal trial, Folio’s long record of complaint-free service, her stints as an academy instructor (she estimates that 90 percent of the current force trained under her), and a stack of letters praising her character and professionalism all served to paint a picture of an officer beyond reproach. But the question of her guilt or innocence apparently remained open from the department’s point of view. Though Folio was found innocent of any criminal charges, nearly a year later, on or about Dec. 14, 2004, BPD decided to take its own crack at her, charging her administratively for her statement in the Burgess arrest papers. Folio could have volunteered to take a polygraph test in an effort to clear her name, but her attorney, Clarke Ahlers, says she never did because the tests are known to be “unreliable”—especially when used to gauge a person’s intent, which was the issue in her case. Nonetheless, “the police department,” Ahlers stresses, “had the right to order her to take one, and they never did.”
Folio’s administrative case would be heard by a police trial board, with three members of the department weighing each side’s arguments before deciding Folio’s professional fate. But the trial board didn’t happen. On March 11, 2005, one business day before the scheduled March 14 hearing, Police Commissioner Leonard Hamm signed a letter immediately ordering that Folio be “removed from her regular permanent position as a Baltimore Police Officer, without fault upon her part.”
Hamm’s move indefinitely postponed the trail-board hearing and forced Folio to retire, which she did officially on March 17. The next day, in order for Folio to be eligible for city health insurance, she and her roommate, Lisa Olszewski, also a city police officer, filed publicly as domestic partners—a decision that was not made lightly, since it officially outted them as a lesbian couple.
Suddenly, the department reversed course. On March 18, the department sent a letter to Ahlers stating that “Folio is under no direct order . . . to retire. In fact, as of this date she is still a member” of the force—despite the fact that Folio had signed retirement papers, as previously directed by the department, the day before.
On March 22, Hamm issued another letter, stating that his March 11 letter ordering Folio out of her job was signed and sent “in error” and that her “job has not been abolished and I am not authorizing a retirement.” As of press time, Folio’s status as a Baltimore City police officer remains in limbo, and she and her lawyer are outraged and baffled. Once you hear her side of this story, it’s not hard to imagine why.
Directly after signing her retirement papers on March 17, Folio and Ahlers arrived at City Paper’s offices to talk. It was the first time Folio had spoken to the press about the matter. Now that she was no longer a member of the force (or so she believed), she was finally free to talk.
“The cost of this case was devastating to me,” Folio lamented in a clear, even-toned Baltimore accent. Physically, she’s obviously strong—an attribute that explains her police academy stints, teaching defensive tactics and physical fitness. And like most cops, she’s practiced at masking her emotions when speaking. But her words themselves, more than her demeanor, gave away the depth of her feelings. “I live in the city, I’ve been a lifelong city resident, and I truly believe in the city. That’s why I’ve been here so long and had complete faith in the police department.
“I guess what hurts me most,” she continued, “is who really suffered here is the citizens of Baltimore—not having me on the street protecting their communities. And if you talk to anyone in the communities that I patrolled, they miss me. To me, that’s who I ultimately work for. And I like to know that when they saw me, for eight hours they at least felt safe at some point. That’s what meant the most to me, that I’m not going to be able to do that anymore.”
The police department has nothing to say about the Folio affair because, BPD spokesman Matt Jablow says, it expects to be sued.
In fact, Ahlers has so notified the department—not formally, but by implication. On March 22—the same day Hamm rescinded his order for Folio to retire—Ahlers sent a six-page letter to the department that, in closing, reviewed Folio’s “rights” in regards to her experience with the department’s internal-affairs bureaucracy. Among them were the rights to “take civil action” in the courts, to “request federal criminal and civil investigation of misconduct by her accusers,” and “to take effective public, political action through the mass media.” Ahlers dangled the prospect of negotiating a financial settlement, but pointed out that “Ms. Folio’s legal obligation to cooperate in any federal criminal investigation” was not negotiable. Reading between the lines, Ahlers was putting the department on the alert that Folio can give as good as she gets.
The banner reads HIGHLANDTOWN ‘DRUG-FREE’ MIDDLE SCHOOL. It hangs over a public school, next to a public park, as an early spring day turns to dusk, right when students and working people who live in the area are likely to be enjoying some free time outdoors. This is where and when Internal Affairs chose to place a fake drug stash under bushes next to a public sidewalk—where any youngster might pick up the bag, where any random person passing through might be swept up in the sting and arrested—as a ploy to tempt a cop to steal abandoned contraband.
As Folio experienced it, the “random integrity test”—Internal Affairs’ term for the operation—presented anomalies that raised eyebrows even as it unfolded. Folio says she and other cops who share her beat knew that Pratt and Ellwood is not a drug corner, so the tip itself (phoned in by an Internal Affairs detective) was out of the ordinary. Even Leon Burgess, the man Folio arrested, said as much during a police interrogation: “It’s not even a drug area that they was riding in. I have never even seen . . . drug[s] move through there.”
Stranger still was the condition of the recovered cash: $250 in clean, crisp, new bills, several of them with sequential serial numbers. Folio and another responding officer discussed the unusually fresh bills as soon as they first examined them, and Burgess, when he was interrogated by police officials while still in custody at Central Booking early the next morning, pointed out that “junkies don’t give you straight money like that. Junkies’ money’s sweaty and it’s balled up and all types of stuff.”
The Internal Affairs detectives’ sting also created a victim: Leon Burgess, who was falsely stopped, detained, and arrested as a direct result of the actions of the detectives, who did nothing to stop it. They were the only people on the scene other than Burgess and his friends who knew he was innocent, and the Internal Affairs detectives simply watched the arrest, recording it on tape. What’s more, the tape reveals that the detectives knew that they were watching trouble unfolding at the time.
Internal Affairs sergeants Terry Ressin and Robert Morris were sitting in a surveillance vehicle during the sting, and their video camera recorded their discussion as Burgess was accosted by the patrol officers. According to the transcript (which was provided by Ahlers to City Paper, along with the rest of Folio’s records of the case), Ressin remarked, “If they lock him up, we got problems.”
Morris responded that Folio is “supposed to be a decent girl. I think she’ll probably just get numbers for found property and lock him up for [inaudible], all we can hope that anyway.”
Ressin’s retort: “And if not, we’re all screwed.”
As it turned out, Internal Affairs was not screwed, but Folio was—with Burgess as collateral damage. “They know this is illegal,” Ahlers says of the detectives’ recorded conversation as they watched Folio arrest Burgess. “[Internal Affairs] had let a person be unconstitutionally stopped, detained, and arrested. He had no business being stopped because [Internal Affairs] knew, when they gave the description out [to 911], that it was a fiction. They know this is illegal,” he argues emphatically, growing visibly exercised. “Jackie doesn’t know that. She’s been dispatched to a felony in progress!”
What’s more, during Folio’s criminal trial it came to light that this particular test came with a heightened risk of a false arrest built in. Under cross-examination, the Internal Affairs detective who designed the sting, Brian Winder, admitted that the plan was to have Resin call 911 with a description “that mirrors persons in the area and advise . . . that the person described is dealing drugs” (emphasis added), almost guaranteeing the prospect of the false arrest of a passing civilian.
Elsewhere in Winder’s testimony at Folio’s trial, the detective acknowledged that he designed the test without a written manual to help him navigate potential pitfalls—what actions to take should someone be falsely stopped, detained, or arrested as a result of the test. (In July 2004, after Winder left Internal Affairs, he was shot and killed in the line of duty.) Indeed, a federal class-action discrimination lawsuit brought against the department in December 2004 by a large group of African-American officers asserts that “BPD has no written investigatory standards, policy, or training for members of [Internal Affairs].”
Folio says she has read a portion of a 1990s New York Police Department manual for doing internal-affairs stings, which explains what to do when faced with an unexpected problem, such as a false arrest. “It spells out, if it goes bad, what they need to do to stop it,” Folio pointed out.
“Suppose, for example,” Ahlers says, picking up on the theme, “if Officer Folio had pointed a gun at Burgess, would they then interrupt it? I mean, at what point were they willing to say, ‘Jeez, now things have deteriorated to the point that she may use deadly force, maybe now we ought to admit that the suspect is not the felon because it’s a fictitious felony.’”
Unprepared for the complications that arose from the sting gone wrong, BPD began tossing the problem up the chain of command like a hot potato. As Internal Affairs sergeants Ressin and Moore followed the police van that was transporting Burgess to Central Booking, Ressin phoned his supervisor, Lt. Ross Buzzuro. “We gave out a description,” Ressin explained, according to the surveillance-tape transcript, “and they, ah, actually stopped somebody a couple of blocks away, who fit the description and they locked him up.” (Emphasis in the original.)
Then Ressin called the lieutenant colonel in charge of Internal Affairs at the time, George Mitchell, to brief him on the situation. “They actually stopped somebody,” he recounted to Mitchell. “I don’t know yet if they found something on him while they were checking him or if they’re going to charge him with our stash. If it was our stuff,” Ressin added, “then we got problems.” Then, to an inaudible comment made by Mitchell, he responded, “Yeah, that’s what I’m hoping, but if not then we’ll do what we have to do.”
What had to be done, subsequent events make clear, was to stick the whole mess on Folio, based on her statement of charges against Burgess, which was completed by 8:30 p.m. At 10:30 p.m. on March 27, 2003, the evening of the arrest, the department’s then-chief of special projects, Sean Malone, was first contacted about the incident. Twenty minutes later, Mitchell briefed one of his Internal Affairs lieutenants, and sent another to the Southeastern District station house to await shift change, when Folio would be present. At 11:45 p.m., Folio arrived for shift change, and was immediately summoned to her shift commander’s office. By midnight, the Southeastern District commander, Maj. John Long, was advised by Mitchell of Folio’s “impropriety” in writing up an allegedly false report. Minutes later, two Internal Affairs detectives escorted Folio to the Internal Affairs offices to read her her Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights rights. Her police powers were suspended immediately, and she was assigned to work at the Baltimore City Juvenile Detention Center.
Burgess, meanwhile, was locked up at Central Booking, where the booking process was completed by about 8:15 p.m. At 12:45 a.m. on March 28—just as Folio, at Internal Affairs, was being read her Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights rights for having wrongfully arrested him, an innocent man—Burgess was taken out of a group cell at Central Booking and put in a room to be interrogated by Malone, Internal Affairs Lt. Joseph Smith, and Internal Affairs Det. Anthony Vaeth. The interview lasted for 35 minutes. Afterward, Burgess was returned to the cell and remained locked up until 2:45 a.m., when he was finally released and given a lift to his East Baltimore home by Malone, Smith, and Vaeth.
It’s clear from the transcript of that interview that Burgess believed he was officially under arrest when Malone, Smith, and Vaeth interrogated him. Smith even re-read him his Miranda rights on the record, an act that further veiled the fact that the police knew he was innocent, had been wrongfully arrested, and was now being wrongfully held and interrogated. It was then more than six hours after his false arrest, and no one had told him he was free to leave.
Ahlers, during the interview at City Paper right after Folio’s March 17 retirement, says he was particularly shocked at Malone’s conduct in handling Burgess: “His first concern, when he arrived at Central Booking that night, should have been to release Burgess. What he does instead is he scams Burgess by bringing him into a room and giving him Miranda. He knows, if he’s got an ounce of sense, that Internal Affairs has done something grossly unconstitutional here, and illegal, and that the city has liability. And so he takes what they’ve done, and he looks at Jackie Folio’s statement of charges, and he says, ‘Here’s the out. This ambiguous sentence here, we’ll put it on the officer.’
“The proof of that is that they never even call Jackie Folio to figure out the ambiguity. They never even asked her, ‘Is this accurate?’ She’s passed the test they designed. She’s turned in all the drugs, all the money. She has no history of ever getting a complaint. In fact, on the [Internal Affairs] tape one of them says she’s supposed to be a good officer.”
In fact, according to the case record, as the Burgess interrogation was winding down that night, the decision to criminally indict Folio had already been made. At 1:15 in the morning, Lt. Col. Mitchell of Internal Affairs notified Thomas Krehely, the assistant state’s attorney who handles police corruption cases; in turn, Krehely advised Mitchell to “gather info, interview people, and meet week of April 1, 2003 for an indictment.” Folio didn’t know her fate was sealed already. On June 6, 2003,when she waived her Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights rights and gave a voluntary statement, it was because she thought she could avoid indictment.
The morning after the sting, the press coverage began. “The Sunpapers breaks the story,” Ahlers recalls, “that Jackie Folio has committed a crime. That she put drugs on an innocent suspect. And if you compare the stories in the Sunpapers—there are two stories two days in a row—if you compare that, it’s verbatim [from] the Leon Burgess interrogation. Now, who would have leaked that? Well, the department runs this ridiculous theory by me—Leon Burgess called the reporter. The idea that he knows which reporter he should talk to at the Sunpapers to generate an article of interest, and that this was an [Internal Affairs] undercover operation—a fact that was not known to him—is absolutely absurd.”
Folio learned only earlier this year, in preparation for the trial board, that Burgess was interrogated by Malone the night of the sting—a fact that brings up another gripe from Ahlers about how the case was conducted. After the administrative charges were filed and the hearing approached, both sides shared information in a legal process called “discovery,” just as they had before the criminal trial. This time, though, Folio and Ahlers received evidence from the police department that hadn’t been provided to them, as required, during the earlier criminal proceedings. Some of the late-arriving evidence was proving helpful in preparing a strong defense for the trial board, but it also would have helped strengthen Folio’s successful defense before Judge Stewart.
“The transcript [of the Burgess interrogation] was one of the documents that was not produced by the police [before] the criminal trial,” Ahlers stresses. “And the person who makes the decision about what information the police department gives to the state’s attorneys office, who must provide it to the defense, is the chief of legal, Sean Malone. So he intentionally did not disclose that.”
Actually, Malone at that time was not chief of legal—a position department spokesman Matt Jablow says Malone had left in 2002—so the difficulties Ahlers had during the discovery process may not have been Malone’s fault. At the time, Jablow explains, Malone was chief of special projects, a job with vague and wide-ranging duties that even Jablow couldn’t summarize. And yet Malone was closely involved with the Folio case; when Ahlers phoned the department to speak to the chief of legal about Folio’s case, he says he found himself talking to Malone, who, Ahlers says, represented himself as chief of legal.
Malone, now the city’s labor commissioner, did not respond to phone calls or a letter hand-delivered and faxed to his office requesting comment for this story.
Clarke Ahlers has been a lawyer since 1986, but before that he had been with the Howard County Police Department since 1972—initially as a 17-year-old cadet, later as an officer. That helps explain why he was so taken aback when he first spoke with Sean Malone on the phone about the Folio case.
Ahlers says the conversation took place right after Folio had hired him. (Herbert Weiner, an attorney for the Fraternal Order of Police union, represented Folio when she was suspended, right after the incident, but Folio hired Ahlers shortly thereafter.) Having learned the details of Folio’s case, Ahlers decided the best course of action was to tell her side of the story to the department, which might decide that charges weren’t warranted. So he contacted the department’s legal affairs division, asked to talk to its chief, and ended up talking to Sean Malone.
“In my mind I’m picturing a 30-year salty veteran,” Ahlers recalls, “somebody who is a former police officer-turned-lawyer, been around the block, and knows everything there is to know.” In fact, at the time, Malone was 36. When he’d been selected as the BPD’s top attorney in 2000, he’d been a lawyer for 18 months. But he was a close friend and adviser of Mayor Martin O’Malley’s, having managed his election campaigns and been a bartender at McGinn’s (now Mick O’Shea’s) where O’Malley’s Irish rock band often played. Malone’s previous law-enforcement career before becoming BPD’s top legal authority consisted of an approximately six-month stint as a prosecutor in Baltimore County.
Ahlers says he began his initial telephone conversation with Malone by offering to give Folio’s side of the story in hopes of preventing criminal charges. He says Malone cut him off and insisted, in no uncertain terms, that Folio was at fault in wrongfully arresting Burgess, end of story. Ahlers says he countered that his client believed she was making a legitimate arrest thanks to the bogus anonymous tip describing a suspect; Ahlers says he was then shocked to hear the police department’s ostensible top legal expert counter that stopping a citizen under such pretenses was unconstitutional, when in fact, Ahlers points out, it is quite constitutional and standard police practice. Regardless, Ahlers says, Malone was apparently unmoved by the argument and cut the conversation short.
It all adds up, in Ahlers’ mind, to a Malone-inspired attempt to hide Internal Affairs misdeeds. Malone, Ahlers allows, “could fairly evaluate the case and say Jackie Folio did something wrong. Reasonable minds can disagree. And I respect if that’s his belief. And he has a job to do. What I didn’t understand, until recently, was he was engaged all along in protecting [Internal Affairs] from their misconduct. Reasonable minds can’t agree about that. That’s not his job.”
Folio was caught up in a “random integrity test,” ostensibly designed to create a situation that any cop in the vicinity could end up responding to, but she says she wonders how random her test actually was. About a month prior to the Burgess incident, Folio says, she responded as a backup to a very similar (and fruitless) call for drug activity a block from her Southeastern District post. And, she says, her girlfriend, Officer Lisa Olszewski, believes she was the target of a similar test set up two weeks after the Burgess sting. Since Internal Affairs won’t tell officers when or whether they’ve been tested, or if they passed, there’s no way to know for sure if the incidents were, in fact, Internal Affairs integrity tests.
Folio isn’t the only one with questions about the fairness and effectiveness of the methods the BPD uses to police its officers. A group of African-American officers filed a discrimination lawsuit last December against the city and the police department alleging that the department selectively uses disciplinary procedures to discriminate against certain types of officers. The lawsuit’s charges, which go all the way back to 1992, include allegations that Malone, as chief of legal from 2000 to 2002, discriminated by initiating investigations of officers, deciding which charges would be brought or dismissed, and influencing the outcomes of charges against them, including in trial-board matters.
The city’s response to the discrimination lawsuit casts off the allegations as an “attempt to undermine the disciplinary procedures” of the department, and claims that Malone enjoys “absolute immunity for any claim arising from their conduct in initiating and prosecuting disciplinary charges.”
Of course, problems with the department’s self-policing pre-date Malone. A 1996 study by the Baltimore City Community Relations Commission determined that 75 percent of terminated officers were black, even though black officers made up less than half the force. The study also found that 90 percent of black officers who went to department trial board were found guilty, while only 60 percent of white officers called before trial board met the same fate.
The commission’s report prompted a probe by the City Council’s Legislative Investigations Committee, headed at that time by then-Councilman Martin O’Malley. At its conclusion in 1998, O’Malley’s committee issued another report that confirmed widespread disparities in the disciplinary treatment of black and white officers, concluding that the most shameful aspect of the findings was “our failure to root out these problems when they are brought to our attention.”
Steve Kearney, the mayor’s director of policy and communications, says the police department under the O’Malley administration in 2000 started the integrity test program—the very one that netted Folio—as “a direct outcome” of the 1998 report, and that, in addition, the selection of trial board members has become random and less politicized than in the past. Department spokesman Jablow says that the IAD has conducted 460 integrity tests since 2000 and that four officers have failed them. He would not name the officers who failed; presumably, Jackie Folio is one of them.
“I’ve never seen stuff like this,” says a 30-plus-year BPD veteran who spent more than a decade doing internal investigations. He asked not to be named out of fear of retribution before his pending retirement. “It’s really gotten out of control, with the state’s attorney working as an instrument of [Internal Affairs], taking weak cases like Folio’s, indicting, and losing,” the BPD veteran says. “It’s done to harass, embarrass, and coerce [people] into resigning. But I’ve never, ever seen them do what they’re doing to Jackie—abolish some police officer’s position just to avoid letting them have a trial board. It’s profoundly befuddling.”
The “nucleus” of these problems, the veteran agrees, “is Malone, but he’s the mayor’s guy, so nobody steps up and objects.”
The way to make good police-corruption cases, he advises, is to “do them targeted, based on good intelligence—so-and-so’s dirty, so target him and find out. Maybe it takes three, four weeks to set up a targeted, but you end up with good, strong cases—and there are good cases out there to be made.
“But the mayor likes randoms, because it represents numbers,” the veteran continues. “With large numbers of randoms—which take a few days to set up—you can rack up the numbers and say you’re working hard to clean up the department, even though all you’re really doing is taking resources away from targeted cases. With randoms, more times than not, you end up with nothing.”
Former BPD sergeant Andre Street, a 25-year veteran who retired in 1995, remembers how random tests in the past had to be designed for total control of the environment. For example, Internal Affairs detectives might have planted a couple of joints in plain view on the floorboards of a patrol car: “They’d watch, do [the officers] follow procedures? Do they keep it, whether for personal use or as drop items to pin charges on a suspect? It was controlled because it didn’t put citizens at risk. Whatever you do you should do without involving the public. You have to plan for every contingency and be prepared to pull the plug at any time and say, ‘The gig’s up.’”
Ahlers, too, has a few ideas about how better to go about catching corrupt police. “Almost every study ever done about police corruption,” he asserts, “says that you look at the vice and narcotics units, not patrol. If you’re trying to find out if police officers get free coffee at 7-Eleven, yeah, maybe patrol officers are involved in that. But if you are looking for who is protecting organizations of criminals, you have to look at units that go after organized crime. At that level, what the criminal wants to know is, can they pay somebody for information or can they pay somebody for protection, and that’s really not going to happen at the uniformed officer patrol level.
“There are a lot of ways they could do this. Instead, they end up doing Jackie Folio and trying to cover up their own culpability.”
In the Folio case, a poorly planned and executed random sting netted a police officer allegedly lying in charging documents and inadvertently raised questions that cut right to the heart of how police are policed in this town. But what happened to Burgess, the falsely arrested suspect? His post-sting story suggests even more problems.
On April 15, 2003, about two weeks after the Folio sting, Burgess allegedly sold drugs to an undercover officer on the 3700 block of East Pratt Street and was charged with conspiracy theft. On July 24 of that year, the state’s attorney declined to prosecute the charges. On May 1, 2003, Burgess earned assault and deadly-weapon charges thanks to his alleged connection with a large, drug-related fracas in the 3600 block of Eastern Avenue, but the state’s attorney declined to prosecute those charges, either. On Aug. 28, 2003, Burgess was charged with indecent exposure when he allegedly tried to force his way—while openly masturbating—into a woman’s home on the 2000 block of East Baltimore Street as she tried to stop him. The state’s attorney declined to take those charges to court, as well. On Oct. 29, 2003, Burgess was stopped on Conkling Street in Highlandtown after police say they observed him throw suspected drugs to the ground, and then, after searching him, found more drugs. The possession charge against him resulting from the incident was not pursued by the state’s attorney’s office. Burgess accrued all of these charges prior to his giving testimony at the December 2003 criminal trial of Jackie Folio.
Burgess’ attorney, William Buie, tells City Paper he advises his client, who is currently locked up and awaiting trial on several violent charges, including rape, not to talk to the paper while the current charges are pending. Assistant State’s Attorney Thomas Krehely had not returned calls by press time requesting an interview regarding the past charges against Burgess, or any deal police and prosecutors may have struck with him.
Burgess seems to have enjoyed extraordinary luck in avoiding any recriminations for a time, but police and prosecutors have managed to force Folio to retire, even when they failed to prove she was criminally culpable for pinning false charges on Burgess. And now, with Commissioner Hamm having retracted his order forcing her to retire, it is possible Folio may be asked to return to duty and then fired by the department if she fails to comply.
On April 4, department spokesman Jablow told City Paper that, in fact, Folio’s trial board hearing had been rescheduled for later this month—and trial boards are only held in matters involving police officers, not retired police officers. Moreover, as this story was going to press on April 5, the spokesman issued a written statement denying that Folio’s being made the patsy for the department’s failures.
“Agent Folio’s allegations of a conspiracy are entirely untrue,” BPD’s statement reads. “The truth is that she has been charged administratively with making a false statement—a statement that resulted in an innocent man being arrested. The citizens of Baltimore demand and deserve better. In light of these charges, an internal hearing board will soon be convened to determine if Agent Folio violated police department policy.”
Folio laughs when told over the phone about the rescheduled hearing—BPD told the press about it before notifying her. “Isn’t that lovely?” she jokes. Then the laughter stops, and her voice turns serious and sad.
“I feel like I’m in an abusive domestic relationship,” she says. “I never thought I’d be going out like this.”
By Van Smith
Published in City Paper, Dec. 23, 2014
Somewhere hidden in the nooks and crannies of Baltimore’s Metro Gallery, probably somewhere around the stage and assuming every single speck of them hasn’t been cleaned up, are a few tiny, carbonized pieces of a very large man: Sam Holden, a Baltimore-based photographer and drummer who had a helluva lot of fun with a whole lot of people until, at 44 years old, he dropped dead one day in April while clearing brush at his father Todd Holden’s Bel Air farm, Rustica. The pieces that may remain at Metro are there courtesy of his father, who spoke at Holdenfest, a celebration of his son held there in November.
“I’d like to try not to cry,” Todd Holden said before a video camera, while up on Metro’s stage. “There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t wake up and I think of Sam,” he continued, then reluctantly partook of what he called a “sacrament”—a pull from a bottle of Maker’s Mark—and declared, “I can’t stand this stuff, but when I drank it with Sam, it tasted like . . . ambrosia.” He started to step away from the mic, but then came back: “One last thing,” he said, producing a clear plastic sandwich bag that at first appeared to contain weed, but the confusion was quickly erased when he explained, “these are some of Sammy’s ashes.” He held the bag upside down and shook it, emptying its crumbly gray contents onto the stage.
It was a proper tribute to a rock ‘n’ roller like Sam Holden that bandmembers’ feet shuffled through his ashes as they played hard and loud through the rest of that night. That it was made possible thanks to his dad, a man whom he called “certainly the single most influential person in my life” because without “the years spent by his side in the darkroom as a child, I doubt very seriously that my life with camera in hand would be the same,” calls to mind what is perhaps, other than his photographs, his greatest legacy: showing how what’s often a problem-riddled connection, the father-son relationship, can be a great and beautiful thing.
Though City Paper published a trove of Sam Holden’s photographs over the course of two decades, some of them wildly super-saturated color specimens and others subtly toned black-and-whites, usually taken on a cumbersome, antique Hasselblad, his work was published widely in both Baltimore and national publications, and he was proud, too, of his commercial output. As a lifetime body of work, what he produced stands as a direct affront to what British art critic Jonathan Jones wrote in The Guardian this month: “Photography is not an art. It is a technology.”
In Sam Holden’s hands, it most definitely and enthusiastically was both. One of his last Facebook posts demonstrates this. Dated April 2, it’s a snapshot of a bunch of blue- and red-capped jugs in the back of a pick-up truck, with the caption, “Yes that’s a shit load of color chemistry!!!!!! STOKED…………….” One of the comments came from Todd Holden, who wrote, “image storm under way.” So sad that storm is now passed.
By Van Smith
Published by City Paper, Nov. 1 2006
In the summer of 1999, when then-City Councilman Martin O’Malley was running for mayor of Baltimore at age 36, he wrote With Change There Is Hope: A Blueprint for Baltimore’s Future. It was a two-part, two-booklet title (pictured), one bound in a green cover, the other blue. They were handed out far and wide during the last weeks of the 1999 campaign. O’Malley dubbed them collectively as “my epistle” or “my book,” and separately as “the Green Book” and “the Blue Book.”
Today, With Change There Is Hope represents a sweeping archive of O’Malley’s promises to voters. In politics, that’s a contract, a document that sets down what’s expected of the victor in return for votes. There is no penalty for failing to uphold the contract, but when its terms aren’t met, elections–such as the gubernatorial one that will decide between Democrat O’Malley, Republican incumbent Robert Ehrlich, and Green Party candidate Ed Boyd on Nov. 7–can result either in punishment or forgiveness.
Baltimore’s voters held up their end of the bargain with O’Malley when they first backed him seven years ago. O’Malley was expected to deliver–a lot. He’d set his plan down in the 40-page Green Book, which focused on crime reduction, and the 80-page Blue Book, which covered everything else–and how all of it is tied to the crime rate. Those who supported O’Malley’s re-election in the 2004 election did so despite the fact that many of his pledges remained unmet. Now, joined by voters in the rest of the state, they will decide whether to back him again in his bid for governor. O’Malley still owes Baltimore. If he wins the election, he’ll be expected to pay it back from the statehouse. If he loses, he’ll work off his debt at City Hall.
O’Malley focuses on the debt paid, not the debt remaining, as he makes the campaign rounds for governor. He has plenty of accomplishments with which to fill speeches. The main one, perhaps, was described in an Oct. 5 speech at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health: “Instead of wallowing in a culture of failure and excuses, we came together to take on the tough challenges and made progress.”
Running to replace Ehrlich this year, O’Malley recites a concisely packaged 10-point plan instead of handing out lengthy manifestos. Copies of With Change There Is Hope are hard to come by today. They are not available online. Google its title with the word “Baltimore,” and all that comes up is a link to City Paper‘s 2002 Best of Baltimore “Best Scandal: Police Corruption” blurb. But O’Malley’s 7-year-old collection of green and blue IOUs remains in the archives of history, ready to be dusted off once again.
“My approach as mayor will focus on two basic concepts–urgency and accountability,” he wrote in the Blue Book’s conclusion, after setting the bar for his own performance. He wanted change, urgently, and change came after he became mayor. But it often came not as promised, or sometimes not at all. That’s not surprising, given O’Malley’s great expectations. Urgency is hard to measure (he certainly seemed urgent), but accountability is O’Malley’s middle name. Now he’s accountable for how things changed, or have not.
Just as the mayor’s CitiStat program tries to keep city agencies on their toes by measuring government activities, journalists can apply statistical yardsticks to O’Malley’s promises. There are two sources of information for this exercise: what O’Malley said would happen, and what happened according to the numbers and known circumstances. (Numerous phone messages and e-mails to the mayor’s communications director, Steve Kearney, and O’Malley spokespersons Rick Abbruzzese and Raquel Guillory, were not returned.) Given the vast landscape of his panoramic vision for Baltimore in With Change There Is Hope, it’s best to begin by concentrating, as O’Malley did when he first ran for mayor, on a single issue: crime, and how everything hinges on it.
O’Malley’s June 23, 1999, mayoral campaign announcement speech, delivered at the corner of Harford Road and the Alameda, drew a small crowd. He made up for the lack of attention by using the speech’s text as the Green Book’s opener: “My name is Martin O’Malley. I believe I can turn this city around by making it a safer place, and I mean to begin doing it now.”
First, though, O’Malley had to get elected, and right off the bat his credibility was questioned. He told a story in the speech about having been to the same corner the previous midnight, when he was approached by a drug dealer, who asked, “What do you want?” The exchange gave O’Malley a rhetorical hook for his announcement.
“That’s a question,” the would-be mayor said to 30 or so supporters gathered to hear his speech, “that each of us in this city needs to answer in this important election year.”
Sun columnist Dan Rodricks suspected the hook was hogwash and immediately got on the case. Rodricks visited the neighborhood and found a resident who said that Harford Road and the Alameda is not a drug corner, but a “hackin’ corner” where “guys hang out lookin’ for rides.” O’Malley told Rodricks “it’s no big deal,” and explained that the guy on the corner who gave him his “What do you want?” line for the speech “was doing that hand motion they do when the markets open. It’s a notorious corner. That’s what they do there.” But, Rodricks reported, O’Malley “can’t say for sure that the young guy wanted to sell him drugs. It’s a hunch.” The columnist gave O’Malley’s poetic license its propers: “Good stuff, councilman. Even without that Monday-midnight story.”
O’Malley is prone to hunches, and has thus far benefited from people forgiving him when they don’t pan out. His main hunch as a councilman with mayoral ambitions was that if you solve the crime problem, everything else will fall into place. From O’Malley’s perspective, the revival of schools, housing, health, jobs, population, investment, tax revenues, the real-estate market–in short, all that makes cities tick–depended on public safety, government’s primary responsibility. He waxed on this theme in the Green Book, asking voters to “Imagine how quickly our great City will come back to life when we get hold of public safety and start closing down our expanding drug markets.” He pointed to other cities, such as New York, as crime-fighting models and suggested we simply copy what worked elsewhere.
In a 1999 phone interview about his crime plan, O’Malley was emphatic. “There is no way to create jobs or to improve the business environment if the only businesses expanding are these open-air drug markets. So that’s first and foremost,” he asserted. “It affects everything.” He went on to spell out his policing strategy, which had various names: “quality of life,” “zero tolerance,” and “broken windows.” The idea, he said, was to “improve the reality of public safety” by “changing enforcement priorities, by redefining the mission of the police as restoring public order on our corners and improving quality of life on our corners. When you do that the bigger crimes become easier to solve and easier to deter, and you drive the drug markets indoors, which drives down the random violence that is inflating our numbers to be some of the worst in the nation.”
At O’Malley’s announcement, he called the corner where he was standing an “open-air drug market,” and promised within six months to make it and nine others like it “things of our city’s past.” He added that “in the second year, 20 more open-air drug markets will likewise be shut down, and thus will the people of this city easily measure our success or failure.”
After six months in office, in a letter to The Sun, the mayor explained that he’d taken care of the 10 drug corners. And he described how it had happened: Police, city inspectors, and public-works crews had tidied them up, pronto. It was that easy.
The two-year mark in 2002, by which time O’Malley promised 20 more cleaned-up corners came and went without fanfare. As 2003 began, public frustration about the continuing crime problem was evident.
“We still have open-air drug markets on our corners,” City Councilman Bernard “Jack” Young (D-12th District)–usually, like most members of the council, an O’Malley ally–told the Baltimore Afro American in late January 2003. “Point-blank, nothing’s changed. We’re paying all of this overtime to the police. Where is the change?” O’Malley’s hunch was being called into question.
The experience of crime in Baltimore neighborhoods is as varied as the neighborhoods themselves. What feels to many like improvements under Mayor O’Malley–seemingly safer and clearly more prosperous communities around the waterfront, along the north-south axis of Charles Street, along the Northeast Baltimore thoroughfares of Belair and Harford roads, and in certain other key neighborhoods like Hampden–feels to others like it’s not happening in their neighborhoods. Because the improvements are concentrated in waterfront neighborhoods and the central north-south spine of the city, they are more evident than the sluggish expanses of the east and west sides, where change has come more slowly, if at all.
With or without dramatic crime reductions, though, the city has been rebounding in many ways, and O’Malley’s re-election in 2004 affirmed and affixed the notion that he was doing alright as mayor. Many understood that he would soon run for governor. Once he announced his candidacy for state office, O’Malley’s record as mayor became Republicans’ main message when promoting Ehrlich. They can do that because O’Malley’s hunch hasn’t worked itself out yet.
If O’Malley was wrong about crime being the foremost determinant of the city’s fortunes, then there’s room for forgiveness. Crime in many ways has trended downward, particularly in some parts of the city and for some types of crime. But low interest rates, not reduced bloodshed, likely had more to do with the city’s improved performance under O’Malley.
In the Blue Book, O’Malley noted that in 1999 “City houses fetch roughly one half of what they do in Baltimore County,” because of the prevalence of crime in the city. Since 1999, “thanks to reductions in crime and increased investment in the city, average home values in Baltimore have risen 120%,” according to O’Malley’s campaign web site.
Crime reductions may have helped, but the key factor was the residential real-estate market boom created by historically low interest rates and rising demand. The 2004 median sales price for a Baltimore single-family home was $130,500, compared to $215,000 in Baltimore County. Thus, instead of city houses selling for half the value of county houses, under O’Malley they began selling at about 60 percent of what county houses get. The value of city single-family homes gained slightly more than 35 percent between 2002 and 2004, an amount a tad higher than in Baltimore County.
Real-estate values and tax revenues tend to rise and fall together, and they both jumped under O’Malley, as expected during times of cheap money. In 2000, city revenues stood at about $1.4 billion. In 2004, they broke $2 billion, and stood at $2.1 billion in 2005. Increasing real-estate values helped a lot on the property-tax front, aided by new taxes instituted by O’Malley.
The level of private investment in the city, likewise, has increased substantially. Little scaffolding and few cranes were part of Baltimore’s streetscape in the 1990s, but they are common sights today. The O’Malley administration says the value of development activity under way in 2005 was estimated to be $2 billion, whereas ongoing projects in 2000 added up to a little less than $900 million.
O’Malley’s gubernatorial campaign biography states that, as mayor, he has “promoted job growth by attracting over $10 billion in economic development” and “nearly ended Baltimore’s decades-long population loss.” But jobs and population declined in the city, and unemployment rose from 5.9 percent in 2000 to 7.1 percent in 2005. Job loss from 1999 to ’04 hit Baltimore hard, taking away about 40,000 jobs–the most among Maryland’s 24 jurisdictions, as was the city’s loss of about 15,000 residents from 2000 to ’05. A 2002 U.S. Census snapshot of the city’s unemployment situation pointed out key disparities: While the overall unemployment rate was 6.8 percent, white men were at 2.1 percent and black men at 11.8 percent. The city made the top-10 list in the country for average weekly wage growth in 2005, but at the same time lost more jobs–5,800–than almost all of the 323 large cities and counties studied. While the city’s employment outlook hits some harder than others, the jobs that remain are paying better, and the loss of jobs went along with ongoing loss in population.
The jobs lost under O’Malley came on the heels of all the jobs lost before him. In the Blue Book, O’Malley painted a bleak picture of the Kurt Schmoke years, describing job declines in manufacturing, transportation, retail, banking, and hospitals. The situation hardly improved after O’Malley was elected. Between 2001 and ’04, Baltimore lost nearly 5 percent of its jobs. A quarter of its manufacturing jobs, 15 percent of its banking and finance jobs, 5 percent of its retail jobs–all disappeared in a four-year span. The drop in public employment was pronounced, especially local government jobs, which fell by nearly 4,000 positions, more than 12 percent. Only three sectors posted major job gains: hospitals, educational services, and the hotel and restaurant industry.
Under Mayor Schmoke, the city lost an average of 722 jobs per month, O’Malley calculated in the Blue Book. Between 2001 and ’04 under O’Malley, the city lost an average of 432 jobs per month. That’s a dramatic improvement, but it is still a drastic rate of job loss–especially when the surrounding counties are alive with job growth. The Blue Book pointed out that the surrounding counties posted a gain of 104,000 jobs when Schmoke was mayor, an average of 963 new jobs each month. Between 2001 and ’04, with O’Malley as mayor, the surrounding counties added nearly 63,500 new jobs, an average of 1,322 jobs per month.
Thus, while the city’s job loss has slowed under O’Malley, it has not reversed, as O’Malley predicted. And the surrounding counties’ job growth accelerated by about 40 percent. Baltimore remains the hole in the doughnut of regional employment trends.
The public schools, well, they’re still a mess, but there are bright spots. As the city’s population declines, so does school enrollment–by an average of 2,900 students per year since O’Malley became mayor, bringing the total down to about 85,000. While some of the trends in standardized test scores are good, many others are not. Graduation rates are up for seniors getting a regular education, but down dramatically for the increasing share of students in special education. The money spent to achieve these results has increased dramatically on a cost-per-student basis, and has been the target of near-permanent scandal over the school system’s financial accountability.
In the Blue Book, O’Malley reported that in 1997 only 16.6 percent of third-graders’ scores were “satisfactory” under the state reading tests. This statistic is recited again on O’Malley’s campaign web site, and updated with the claim that O’Malley “helped 61% of the third graders meet those state standards last year.” The standardized tests were changed in 2002. Under the new ones, the percent of third-graders with “proficient” reading scores has risen annually, from 38 percent in 2003 to 59 percent in ’06, when the statewide scores had risen from 50 percent to 63 percent. The same happened with third-grade math scores, with the percent of proficient third-graders rising to 52 today from 40 in 2003, when the statewide scores had jumped only four points, from 50 to 54. That’s some of the good news.
Some of the bad news is that only 2 percent of special-education high-school students passed the high-school English standardized test in 2005. That 2.1 percent passed in 2006 is nothing to brag about, since it indicates that students in the city’s large special-education program don’t have much of an education to look forward to.
As students continue in school, their improved scores in earlier grades should be reflected in improvements as they reach higher grades. In some cases, this has happened, but not in others. The third-grade class of 2004, for instance, was tested again as fifth-graders this year, when its proficiency in math and reading both were significantly higher than those of prior fifth-grade classes. But the sixth-grade class of 2004, which was entering first grade when O’Malley was elected mayor, is another story. When the class reached eighth-grade this year, its share of students scoring proficiently dropped in both math and reading compared to its sixth-grade scores.
O’Malley’s Blue Book measured city schools’ graduation rates harshly, saying that “only 25 percent of ninth graders . . . ever graduate. This is unacceptable.” The percent of regular-education 12th-graders graduating is rising, from 58 percent in 2002 to 64 percent today. But the drop in the share of special-education 12th-graders graduating went from 65 percent in 2002 to 35 percent today.
When running for mayor, O’Malley’s intentions about special education were clear: He wanted significant improvements, and a reduction in the size of the program. He said that, at the time, 18 percent of the student population was enrolled in special education, and he wanted that number to drop to 13. By 2000, it had dropped to 17 percent, which is where it remained in 2005. Meanwhile, by O’Malley’s figures from his first mayoral campaign, the cost of educating each special-education student per year was $9,680. Since then, it has increased by a fifth, and stands at $11,722 per student.
In his governor’s campaign biography, O’Malley expresses pride in city schools, claiming that “for the past three years, elementary school students have posted higher scores in reading, language arts, and mathematics at every grade level.” That’s an accomplishment that would make any mayor proud. But O’Malley, by law, does not control the city school system. As mayor, he is an equal partner with the state in its success or failure–an equal partner with the government headed by his gubernatorial opponent, Robert Ehrlich. “Our children should not suffer due to adult disagreements,” O’Malley wrote in the Blue Book. “In the future, Baltimore should, once again, take greater responsibility for our school system. But we also must build continually on the partnership we have established with Annapolis–it is in the best interest of our children.”
The city-state partnership has suffered from scandal after scandal arising from lack of accountability in recent years, leaving the city school system in such a shambles that it is surprising some children are able to learn adequately. Neither the city nor the state has stepped up to take unilateral responsibility, though their collective responsibility is there for all to see. O’Malley takes credit for the good where he can–with some improved test scores in some grades–and, either as governor or as mayor, may be in a position to do more for at least a couple more years. But he’ll also have to live with the bad, until the system gets fixed.
Baltimore under O’Malley is a mixed bag of results, and it’s hard to say changes in the crime rate made it so. By the raw numbers, though, Baltimore is safer now than when O’Malley started. In the first six months of 2000, when he was working off his obligation to clear the 10 corners, the city logged 141 murders, 161 rapes, 3,010 robberies, and 4,530 aggravated assaults, including 700 nonfatal shootings. In 2005, the totals from January to June were much rosier. Murder was down 3 percent, rape had dropped by more than half, robbery saw a 40 percent reduction, and aggravated assaults were reduced nearly a quarter, including a near 30 percent drop in shootings. The same number of under-18-year-olds–47–were murdered in 2002 as were in 1996, but in the first 10 months of this year 22 kids were killed, and all of last year saw only 14 juvenile homicides, so the situation appears to be getting less bloody for Baltimore’s teens.
Yet, despite these numbers and O’Malley’s optimism and declarations of success, frustrations and distrust about the prevalence of crime abound. Some of O’Malley’s crime numbers remain under the pall of a state effort to audit his numbers this year, an effort that the mayor rebuffed. And O’Malley’s earlier use of an audit of the 1999 figures to establish the baseline for his claims of crime reduction has been called into question.
O’Malley’s handpicked benchmarks in the Green Book set a high bar, and, although he didn’t meet many of them, they often moved in the direction he promised. His Green Book said public-safety improvements in the first two years of the O’Malley administration, for instance, should reflect New York’s as it first adopted quality-of-life policing under Mayor Rudolph Giuliani in the mid-1990s. When Giuliani was first starting out, murder went down 40 percent, robbery 30 percent, burglary a quarter, and rape by 8 percent, according to the Green Book’s figures.
By three of these measures, O’Malley fell short. His first two years saw nearly a fifth fewer murders and burglaries, and a quarter fewer robberies–all smaller drops than what Giuliani delivered. (Given the doubts about the Baltimore’s 1999 crime numbers, 1998 was used as the base year for this analysis, giving O’Malley three years to accomplish what Giuliani did in two.) But on the fourth category, rape, O’Malley achieved a reduction of about 40 percent, more than five times larger than New York’s. Rape later became a category of crime suspected in 2003 of being under-reported by Baltimore police, and, after an audit, a 15 percent upward correction in the 2002 numbers was ordered.
O’Malley’s second-guessed crime numbers have historical poignancy. When he was a councilman, O’Malley made a name for himself by proving that then-Mayor Schmoke’s police department was cooking its books to augment its mid-1990s crime-reduction claims. Today’s data-accuracy doubts suggest that perhaps O’Malley’s police department somehow has been aping the bad behavior of Schmoke’s department, though hard evidence of this has yet to arrive. Pending future findings, which themselves may end up subject to charges of inaccuracy, the numbers O’Malley’s police department reported to the FBI are the best available data about Baltimore crime.
The raw numbers about crime reduction that O’Malley likes to cite, though, tend not to take into account the decline in the city’s population. Do so, and Baltimore’s murder rate goes from 40.3 murders for every 100,000 residents in 2000 to 42 in 2005. Thus, it makes sense that many people believe Baltimore remains as murderous as it was before O’Malley became mayor–because Baltimore was, in fact, a bit more murderous, per capita, in 2005 than it was in 2000.
O’Malley pledged in the Green Book to make Baltimore a lot less murderous, by taking the toll down to 175 homicides in 2002. This bold goal helped him get elected 1999, when there were 305 murders. But when 2002 closed out, there were 78 more homicides than he’d promised. Boston, a city of a little less than 600,000 people, and one which the Green Book points to as a model for Baltimore to follow, had 60 murders that year, by way of comparison.
Baltimore’s crime rates look bad when compared to other large U.S. cities, and the numbers hardly improved from 2000 to 2005. After five years of O’Malley, there were 17.6 violent crimes for every 1,000 Baltimore residents in 2005, nearly 80 percent more than the big-city average. In 2000, as in 2005, the city’s murder rate was nearly three times higher than the average for cities of between a half-million and a million people. Robberies in 2000 were 2.6 times more common in Baltimore than in other large cities, and aggravated assaults (including shootings) were 2.2 times more prevalent. Five years into the O’Malley administration, the violence had fallen off, but still occurred at nearly double the rates in other large cities.
In With Change There Is Hope, O’Malley observed that “Baltimore is today the fourth deadliest city in the nation, and the city’s murder rate is seven times higher than in the average city.” Time hasn’t changed much in that regard. In 2005, Baltimore’s murder rate was still seven times the average for U.S. cities. In the 2005 Detroit mayoral race, the fact that only Baltimore had a higher murder rate than Detroit was put in play on the campaign trail. This year, in a ranking against 31 other cities with populations over a half-million, Baltimore was second most dangerous, with Detroit earning the top dishonor.
Where violence is concentrated is where the greatest crime reductions are possible. Traditionally in contemporary Baltimore, the brunt of the violence has disproportionately fallen on the Eastern and Western police districts, compared to the other seven districts. After a period of increasing violence in O’Malley’s first term, it is here, in the Eastern and Western districts, where crime numbers show improvements–fulfilling some of the expectations O’Malley created.
From 1999 to ’02, the share of the citywide homicides happening in the Eastern and Western districts rose from nearly 30 percent to more than 40 percent. Murders were dropping in the city (from 305 in 1999 to 253 in 2002), yet these two districts were showing substantial increases in their body count. That’s now changed. In 2005, the Eastern and Western’s combined tally had dropped 30 percent from 2002’s level, while the rest of the city’s homicides had jumped up a quarter. The burden is shared now by four other districts–the Southern, Southwestern, Northern, and Southeastern–joining the Western with more murders in 2005 than they’d had in 1999.
The recent geographical shift in Baltimore homicides suggests O’Malley in some ways is starting to mirror Giuliani’s 1990s crime-fighting success in New York. In 1999, just before O’Malley declared for mayor, the New Republic ran a cover story on Giuliani that examined an important trend in the Big Apple’s crime reduction: The sharpest crime drops were seen in the area’s that needed them the most. Harlem’s crime fell 61 percent between 1994 and ’98, for example, and East New York’s murders went from 110 in 1993 to 37 in ’98. Similarly, in Baltimore, the Eastern and Western police districts have recently shown substantial improvements, although several other districts have experienced increases in crime.
Overall, though, the picture on the crime front is pretty bleak compared to O’Malley’s expectations and how it compares to the rest of urban America. “With public will, energy and political leadership,” O’Malley wrote in the Blue Book in 1999, “Baltimore will join the ranks of America’s great rejuvenated cities that are growing safer, larger, and more diverse . . . That is my pledge.” Now it’s seven years later, and Baltimore continues to earn its title as one of the most violent cities in America.
Unlike his crime figures, O’Malley’s budget figures aren’t a matter for debate. In the Green Book, O’Malley indicated that the added cost of his crime plan was, well, nothing, or not much more. “The real solution in Baltimore is not to double size of the broken system,” he wrote about the police department, “but to implement the simple procedural reforms that will make greater use of the substantial resources already in place.” And in the 1999 phone interview, he said crime reductions under his watch would cover the reform costs, explaining that he planned to “increase city revenues by making this city a dramatically safer place quickly, and thereby reversing our loss of population.” He predicted that crime reduction would pay for everything, and then he pulled a George Bush I, promising that “I am dead-set opposed to raising taxes.”
The upshot from the police budget trends is this: a growing proportion of cops at desks, costing a larger amount of money. The department’s budget went up 25 percent from 2002 to ’07, the current fiscal year. Two parts of the departmental budget went up more than 100 percent: Administrative Direction and Control jumped from to $15.5 million to $32 million, while money for the Office of Criminal Justice Policy more than tripled, from $3.5 million to $12 million. Together, the administrative and policy slices of the police pie grew from 7 to 13 percent, while all other parts of the department saw their slices shrink. Though the overall budget went up, department-wide staffing levels dropped by nearly 5 percent from 2002 to today. Administrative staffing jumped nearly 8 percent–the only kind of police staffing that grew. Yet O’Malley’s campaign web site states that he “put more cops on the streets as part of a comprehensive plan to reduce crime.”
The five-year growth of the police budget wasn’t paid for with revenue resulting from an increased city population, as O’Malley had predicted. Population continued to fall, though more slowly. Rather, money was available to expand the police budget because of rising real-estate values and the mayor’s new taxes on energy, cell phones, and real-estate transactions, O’Malley’s prior no-new-taxes pledge notwithstanding. Because of the additional revenues, he was able to keep some promises.
O’Malley vowed in the Green Book to increase funding for the State’s Attorney’s Office “as long as it stays committed to the path of reform, and committed to keeping repeat violent offenders off the street.” The city’s contribution to State’s Attorney Patricia Jessamy’s office has been boosted from $21.6 million in 2002 to $30.4 million today, a more than 40 percent raise that has allowed staffing levels for prosecutions to increase by 55 positions.
The mayor has been true to drug treatment, too. “Since 1996, annual funding for drug treatment in Baltimore has doubled from $16.5 million to $33 million,” O’Malley wrote in the Green Book, indicating this is a positive trend he’d like to continue. And he has. Drug treatment funding under O’Malley increased to $53 million in 2005.
Teen motherhood and other health indicators affect crime trends over the long term, and O’Malley aimed to oversee their decline. He pointed out that in 1997 “nearly 10 percent” of city girls aged 15 to 19 had babies. There was a steep decline after O’Malley took office, and in 2004 the proportion of girls that age who had babies was 6.8 percent. He wanted infant mortality to decline, reporting that the city in 1997 lost newborns at a rate of 14.4 babies per 1,000 live births, “nearly double the state’s rate,” he wrote. It dropped significantly. In 2005, the infant mortality rate had declined to 11.3, half again as high as the state’s.
O’Malley pointed out in the Green Book–as Jay Leno was saying, too, on The Tonight Show at the time–that Baltimore is “the syphilis capital of the United States.” As O’Malley wrote those words, the syphilis rate was in steep decline. In 1999, Indianapolis became the syphilis capital, after Baltimore’s rate had dropped 45 percent in one year. In 2002, Baltimore was ranked 11th among U.S. cities, with an incidence rate of 18.6 cases per 100,000 people. That year, 120 cases were reported. But the disease jumped sharply in 2004, when 209 cases were reported for a rate of 33.2, placing Baltimore third in the nation, behind San Francisco and Atlanta.
Two other sexually transmissible diseases were mentioned in O’Malley’s book, gonorrhea and chlamydia. Baltimore “is rated number two in the U.S. for active cases of gonorrhea,” he wrote at the time. It has dropped significantly since then, but Baltimore was still the fourth-highest city on the list for active cases of gonorrhea in 2004, the most recent ranking available. When O’Malley sought to become mayor, he explained that Baltimore’s national rank was “third for active cases of chlamydia.” The city’s chlamydia rate has actually risen significantly since then, yet its national ranking dropped to seventh highest–an improvement, of sorts.
O’Malley recently summed up his disease-fighting record much more succinctly, and no less truthfully: “Syphillis [sic] is down 75% since 1997 and Gonorrhea is down 45% since 1995.” These surgically selected statistics are posted, along with the rest of O’Malley’s Oct. 5 Hopkins speech, on his campaign web site (www.martinomalley.com).
Baltimore’s improved status on drug-related emergency-room visits, an important indicator of drug abuse, is impressive, but still marginal in the national context. In 1999, O’Malley wrote that Baltimore is “rated number one in the nation for hospital emergency room admissions involving substance abuse.” In 2005, it was tied with New York and Boston for third in the nation.
But O’Malley failed on some important other promises, such as the one about reducing the need to arrest people. The Green Book was adamant about giving police expanded power to issue civil citations for minor crimes, which was expected to free the courts of petty cases. “Through the use of citations–which make fewer arrests necessary–and courthouse reforms that keep innocent people and minor criminals from languishing in jail for weeks before trial,” O’Malley predicted that “fewer people may actually be locked up using quality-of-life policing strategies.” At the very least, he promised that “quality-of-life policing does not mean arresting and locking up our city’s young men indiscriminately.”
Under Schmoke, there had been 70,000 arrests in 1997 and 85,000 in 1998. After several years of quality-of-life police work, in 2004 O’Malley’s expanded civil-citation powers were put in place. In 2005, city police logged around 100,000 arrests. In 2006, the city was sued by the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, who raised charges of widespread indiscriminate arrests. So much for the less-arrests theory of zero-tolerance policing.
O’Malley’s record on police corruption and misconduct has a level of intrigue appropriate to the cloak-and-dagger milieu of internal investigations. His campaign pledges on the issue were zealous. “We know,” he wrote in the Green Book, “that when the police are encouraged to be more assertive, government must become more assertive and open in its policing of the police.” He’d been complaining about police corruption and misconduct under Schmoke’s commissioners for years, and yet “our problem has only gotten worse,” he insisted, adding that “There is nothing more harmful to effective law enforcement, and more devastating to the morale of law-abiding citizens and law enforcement officers, than police misconduct.”
To fight it, O’Malley pledged in the Green Book to “open the Police Department’s internal investigation process, to assure the public that police problems are not being swept under the rug by colleagues’ complicity.”
Immediately after gaining City Hall, O’Malley asked outside consultants to look at the department’s problems. Among their tasks was a survey of police personnel about street-level corruption, which showed that 23 percent of the department believed that more than a quarter of its officers were “involved in stealing money or drugs from drug dealers.” The survey put numbers on the idea that the Baltimore police had a corruption problem.
And yet nothing much happened. Not for years. There were two corruption arrests that didn’t pan out. The case against officer Brian Sewell, suspected in 2000 of planting drugs on an innocent suspect, became suspicious when police evidence against him disappeared during a break-in at internal investigators’ offices, and the charges were dropped by prosecutors in 2001. Officer Jacqueline Folio, accused of a false drug arrest, was found not guilty in a 2003 criminal trial, and the department’s administrative case against her was so full of exculpatory evidence and apparent attempts at cover-ups that she was cleared entirely–and settled her own lawsuit against the city over the whole, career-ending episode. At the end of 2003, police said they had conducted 202 “random integrity tests” to catch bad cops since 2000, yet the only cops nabbed were Sewell and Folio.
The quiet continued. In early January of this year, The Washington Post reported that O’Malley had been booed at a legislative hearing over his department’s high volume of arrests, and that the mayor countered that aggressive arrests would be reflected in increased misconduct complaints, which were down. He was soon to lose the use of that argument at hearings, for 2006 quickly became a memorable year in the annals of Baltimore police misbehavior.
Two days after the legislative hearing, on Jan. 6, a city grand jury charged three officers with rape, unearthing evidence that their undercover squad was corrupt in other ways as well. In April, a federal jury convicted two Baltimore police detectives for robbing drug dealers, a city grand jury charged an officer with stealing rims off a car belonging to an arrested citizen, and an officer caught a gambling conviction. In July, two officers were charged in Baltimore County in separate crimes–fraud and theft in one case, and burglary and stalking in the other. And in August, a Baltimore officer was charged with identity theft in Pennsylvania.
As a councilman and mayoral candidate, O’Malley was passionate about the idea that the police department needed a housecleaning. Police officers “after all are only human,” he said in the 1999 phone interview, so they must be policed “to insure that temptation, unchecked anger, and prejudice do not tarnish the moral authority necessary for a police department to effectively perform its job.” After five years of relative quiet punctuated by weak corruption cases under O’Malley, what he predicted in 1999–“well publicized arrests of clusters of officers who are lured away by the easy money and lucrative money of the drug trade,” as he put it in a 1999 phone interview–is finally coming true.
The Green Book set down an anecdote about Schmoke’s police commissioner Thomas Frazier coming before the City Council in September 1996, on the heels of councilman O’Malley’s return from New York to study its policing strategies. “You don’t have to tell me about zero tolerance. I know what they do in New York,” Frazier was quoted as saying. “They’re doing the same thing I started doing here with Greenmount Avenue–close down the open-air drug markets, drive them indoors, and you reduce the violence. . . . I have to be a team player. When we start closing down the open-air drug markets, the judges complain that we’re crowding their courts and the Mayor makes me back off. . . . Tell the judges. I’m only one piece of this criminal justice system.”
And so is Mayor O’Malley only one piece of the city’s public-safety complex, though you’d never know that from reading the Green Book. To get elected, he made it seem like he was a one-man crime-fighting machine, that all he had to do was hire a police commissioner to deploy known policing strategies proven successful in other cities, and it would all fall in place–an instant urban revival. It’s doubtful any mayor could have met the expectations O’Malley set for himself, much less one who hasn’t gone through four police commissioners and three interim commissioners the way O’Malley has. Still, he scored points for seeming to try and for being in power when interest rates dropped. This Nov. 7, the state’s voters will decide whether he tried hard enough. Either way, he still owes.
By Van Smith
Published by City Paper, May 21, 2003
It’s one of my fondest childhood memories: my mom, myself, my sisters, and our pets (a dog, a hamster, a guinea pig, and a mouse) packed into a station wagon, doing the long haul up the East Coast during summer vacation. We called it “getting lost”–purposefully taking random exits off of Interstate 95, armed with a good map, in search of obscure, out-of-the-way places.
A riverside picnic spot off the beaten path, an ancient barn crowned with an interesting weather vane, a crafts co-op run by back-to-nature hippies–where we were headed (and we often didn’t know exactly where) was less important than the route taken. The main idea was to have the weighted-down wagon’s tires meet asphalt or dirt they had never before touched, taking us through landscapes we’d never before seen. Sometimes it seemed like a treasure hunt, with the arrival at one destination bringing clues to the next.
The Eastern Shore, with its vast, flat expanses of storied territory, offers excellent possibilities for getting lost. The hinterlands between and beyond Route 50 and Route 404 are often bypassed by the fun-seeking hordes en route to the ocean. Leaving the shore traffic behind to hit sleepy towns and dusty roads makes for prime back-roading. It helps to have guideposts to seek, and Delmarva’s Maryland-Delaware border is lined with just the thing: stone markers, first laid down in the 1760s by British surveyors Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon.
According to Roger Nathan, a New Jersey resident whose book East of the Mason-Dixon Line (Delaware Heritage Press, 2000) describes the making of Delaware’s borders, the 3 1/2-foot-high English limestone monuments were placed at every mile point along the line during two weeks around the Christmas of 1765. Many have disappeared, either sunk into marshland or removed, and many that remain are damaged. There are still plenty to find, however, and looking for them makes for a DIY tour of a slice of Delmarva that few tourists ever see.
The Mason-Dixon Line, the world-famous boundary between Maryland and Pennsylvania, defined the geography of this country’s mid-19th-century political conflict over slavery, culminating in the Civil War. Mason and Dixon undertook their celebrated survey between 1763 and ’68, in order to settle a nearly century-long property dispute between the Penns of Pennsylvania and the Calverts of Maryland. What today we call the Mason-Dixon Line, though, was but one part of Mason’s and Dixon’s task. Back then, this latitudinal boundary was called the “West Line” and was started only after the English surveyors completed the “Tangent Line”–the north-south line that now marks the Maryland-Delaware border.
The Tangent Line starts at the “Middle Point,” which falls between Mardela Springs, Md., and Delmar–a town that straddles the Maryland-Delaware border–and is the center of the “Transpeninsular Line,” the east-west line that marks the southern Maryland-Delaware border, which runs from the Atlantic coast near Fenwick Island, Del., to the Chesapeake Bay. From the Middle Point, Mason and Dixon in the summer of 1764 chained 82 miles northward, through farms, marshland, and forests, to touch the 12-mile arc they had drawn around New Castle, Del.
Before starting out on this stone-seeking tour, some reading and references are in order. Nathan’s book is concise with the particulars, giving photos and rough descriptions of the markers and their locations, along with accounts of the surveyors’ charge and challenges. But it also a good idea to chase down a copy of The Journal of Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon (American Philosophical Society, 1969; out of print) to let the men tell their own story, although as men of science, their entries are frustratingly stark. To round out the picture, Thomas Pynchon’s novel Mason & Dixon (Henry Holt, 1997), intimidatingly thick at nearly 800 pages, provides a fantastical glimpse of the surveyors’ characters and the Age of Reason’s hellbent pursuit of all things knowable.
Lastly, but most importantly, get some good maps. Delorme’s Maryland-Delaware Atlas and Gazetteer is invaluable for modern-day explorers, but even better detail is available from Maryland Geological Survey topographic maps of Wicomico, Dorchester, Caroline, Queen Anne’s, Kent, and Cecil counties.
Nearly all of the existing, accessible Mason-Dixon markers can by found by land travel, but somewhere under the marshy north bank of the Nanticoke River is the long-submerged seven-mile marker, regained only via water. To get there, intrepid stone searchers can put their watercraft in at the public boat ramp at Sharptown, Md., on the south side of Route 313’s Nanticoke River bridge.
The river here is wide and tidal, and the two-mile trip to the boundary is likely to be attended by ospreys, herons, perhaps a bald eagle, and plenty of fish a-jumpin’. The spot itself is somewhat anticlimactic, as no stone can be found, but the boundary is marked by a signpost and metal National Geodetic Survey markers alerting passersby to the nearby presence of the submerged marker. Just upriver from the signpost is tiny Wright Creek, a relaxing side trip for canoeists or kayakers, taking paddlers through a meandering, marshy waterway that is home to an abundance of turtles and alive with trout.
A car tour of the markers is best started at the Middle Point, a short distance off Route 50 on Route 54. Protected in a gated pavilion are three stones. The Middle Point monument is a crownstone, so-called because it bears the coats of arms of the Penns on the Delaware side and of the Calverts on the Maryland side, as do other existing crownstones at five-mile intervals along the Tangent Line. (The crownstone pictured above is near Greensboro, Md.) The other two stones at the Middle Point pavilion, Nathan told me before our trip, are the 25-mile marker of the Transpeninsular Line and a stone of no historical significance, set by a local resident.
Gazing north from the Middle Point pavilion, you’re all set to look for more Mason-Dixon stones, with one important catch: Many of the stones are on private property, and thus not available for viewing without permission from the property owners.
On the outskirts of Sharptown is the former site of marker No. 5–a crownstone that Nathan reports has been missing since 1999. Locals pointed us to the location, along a dirt road that follows the border, with fields on the Maryland side and woods on the Delaware side. The National Geodetic Survey markers there–small metal signs on posts–have been nearly destroyed by short-range shotgun blasts, perhaps a sign of local hostility to government totems.
As we scuffed around the area where marker No. 5 used to be, a man travelling in the local fashion–that is, wearing a timeworn baseball cap advertising agricultural products and driving an old pickup truck–pulled over next to us. “You fellers studying the Mason-Dixon Line?” he asked, friendly as can be. When we confirmed we were, he added, “You know, they resurveyed the line using laser beams a few years back, and those fellers had it right on the money.” And then he headed off down the road, leaving us in a cloud of dust. We were unable to confirm the use of laser beams in conducting the resurvey, but he was right: In 1978, a coalition of government agencies checked Mason and Dixon’s work and found it utterly accurate.
The next stop is the nine-mile marker, just north of Galestown, Md., en route to Reliance, Md.–where the house of Patty Cannon, infamous for kidnapping freed slaves in Delaware and reselling them to Maryland slave owners in the early 1800s, is commemorated with an historic plaque. Transgressing in our own small way, we skirted around a private home along a field to take a look at the stone, which has an m carved on the Maryland side and a p on the Delaware side, referring to that state’s colonial origins as part of the Penns’ land grant.
The 15-mile marker is a well-preserved and easily accessible crownstone on the east side of Route 549 near Oak Grove, Del. Here we began to detect a land-use pattern where the state border also delineated different zoning–in this case, farming on the Delaware side, woods and homes on the Maryland side. Then, on to the 17-mile marker, located just north of Route 318 in the middle of a hay field near tiny Atlanta, Del. The stone carver goofed on this one, Nathan speculates, as the Delaware side has a “p” carved over an “m”–making it the Mason-Dixon stone hunter’s equivalent of a philatelist’s Three Skilling Yellow Banco, the world’s most valuable stamp due to a printing error.
As we moved northward, we grew more adept at finding stones–and also noted that the towns and villages north of Route 404, a major highway, grew increasingly lost in time. No Wal-Marts, no McDonald’s, no malls to undermine the old village general-store-and-a-post-office economy that probably hasn’t changed much since the advent of railroading. Naming towns–Schultie Crossroads, Melvin Crossroads, Ringgold’s Green–was a simple matter of connecting family names with a description of the locale.
A daring close to our tour is a climb up a high and frail tower at the state border on Route 404, about 25 miles north of the Middle Point. The tower was built to commemorate the 1978 resurveying of the Mason-Dixon Line. Apparently unmaintained since it was constructed, the tower features rotted pine steps and rickety Tinkertoy engineering. The fence gate at its base, meant to keep the public out, is off its hinges, so temptation got the best of us–despite a dire warning from a kid who lives next door, whose brother, he said, almost fell through the tower’s weather-beaten steps the last time he climbed it. Gripping the metal rails and stepping carefully to avoid weak spots, though, we managed to gain a high vantage point.
The risk was worth it, if only to see Delmarva’s Mason-Dixon Line as Mason and Dixon never could: from above, with miles and miles of Eastern Shore vista spread out all around us. Traveling through this new-to-us territory, and then seeing it from above, serves to drive home the marvel of their surveying feat–and the value of getting lost.