[City to raze hundreds of vacant houses in stepped-up plan: Vacants to Value programs gets an infusion of cash, Baltimore Sun, 8-17-13].
Boarded-up and falling down, hundreds of Baltimore's vacant and blighted rowhouses are scheduled for demolition in coming months in a stepped-up effort to rid the city of its most visible sign of decades of urban decay.
Over the next 2 1/2 years, the city is budgeted to spend nearly $22 million to tear down 1,500 abandoned houses — a move urban planners say could transform Baltimore visually and clear a path for struggling neighborhoods to attract future development. Previously, the city had been spending about $2.5 million a year on demolition.
"Killing Streets" only because of the black population in Baltimore
Commanding the homicide unit’s two shifts of eighteen detectives and detective sergeants are a pair of long-suffering lieutenants who answer to the captain in charge of the Crimes Against Persons section. The captain, who wishes to retire with a major’s pension, does not want his name associated with anything that gives pain to the colonel in charge of the Criminal Investigation Division. That is not just because the colonel is well liked, intelligent and black, and stands a good chance of getting kicked upstairs to a deputy commissioner’s post or higher in a city with a new black mayor and a majority black population that has little faith in, or regard for, its police department. (p. 18)
As a supervisor, Gary D’Addario is generally regarded by his sergeants and detectives as a prince, a benevolent autocrat who asks only competence and loyalty. In return, he provides his shift with unstinting support and sanctuary from the worst whims and fancies of the command staff. A tall man with thinning tufts of silver-gray hair and a quietly dignified manner, D’Addario is one of the last survivors of the Italian caliphate that briefly ruled the department after a long Irish dynasty. It was a respite that began with Frank Battaglia’s ascension to the commissioner’s post and continued until membership in the Sons of Italy was as much a prerequisite for elevation as the sergeant’s test. But the Holy Roman Empire lasted less than four years; in 1985, the mayor acknowledged the city’s changing demographics by dragging Battaglia into a well-paid consultant’s position and giving the black community a firm lock on the upper tiers of the police department. (p. 37-38)
But times had changed. A quarter century ago, an American law officer could fire his weapon without worrying whether the entrance wound would be anterior or posterior. Now, the risk of civil liability and possible criminal prosecution settles on a cop every time he unholsters a weapon, and what could once be justified by an earlier generation of patrolmen is now enough to get the next generation indicted. In Baltimore, as in every American city, the rules have changed because the streets have changed, because the police department isn’t what it used to be. Nor, for that matter, is the city itself.
In 1962, when Donald Worden came out of the academy, the code was understood by the players on both sides. Break bad on a police, and there was a good chance that the cop would use his gun and use it with impunity. The code was especially clear in the case of anyone foolish enough to shoot a police. Such a suspect had one chance and one chance only. If he could get to a police district, he would live. He would be beaten, but he would live. If he tried to run and was found on the street in circumstances that could be made to look good on paper, he would not.
But that was a different era, a time when a Baltimore cop could say, with conviction, that he was a member of the biggest, toughest, best-armed gang on the block. Those were the days before the heroin and cocaine trade became the predominant economy of the ghetto, before every other seventeen-year-old corner boy could be a walking sociopath with a 9mm in the waistband of his sweats, before the department began conceding to the drug trade whole tracts of the inner city. Those were also the days when Baltimore was still a segregated city, when the civil rights movement was little more than an angry whisper. (p. 104)For the public, and the black community in particular, the shooting of Ja-Wan McGee became a long-awaited victory over a police department that had for generations devalued black life. It was, in that sense, the inevitable consequence of too much evil justified for too long. It made no difference that Scotty McCown was neither incompetent nor racist; in Baltimore, as in other police departments nationwide, the sons would be made to pay for their fathers’ crimes.
For cops on the street, white and black, the McGee shooting became proof positive that they were now alone, that the system could no longer protect them. To preserve its authority, the department would be required to destroy not only those men who used and believed in brutality, but also those who chose wrongly when confronted with a sudden, terrifying decision. If the shooting was good, you were covered, though even the most justified use of force could no longer occur in Baltimore without someone, somewhere, getting in front of a television camera to say that police murdered the man. And if the shooting was borderline, you were probably still covered, provided you knew how to write the report. But if the shooting was bad, you were expendable. (p. 109)
As with every other part of the criminal justice machine, racial issues permeate the jury system in Baltimore. Given that the vast majority of urban violence is black-on-black crime, and given that the pool of possible jurors is 60 to 70 percent black, Baltimore prosecutors take almost every case into court with the knowledge that the crime will be seen through the lens of the black community’s historical suspicion of a white-controlled police department and court system. The testimony of a black officer or detective is therefore considered necessary in many cases, a counterweight to the young defendant who, following his attorney’s advice, is wearing his Sunday best and carrying the family Bible to and from court. That the victims are also black matters less; after all, they’re not around to set such a good example in front of the jurors.
The effect of race on the judicial system is freely acknowledged by prosecutors and defense attorneys-black and white alike-although the issue is rarely raised directly in court. The better lawyers, whatever their color, refuse to manipulate jurors through racial distinctions; the others can do so with even the most indirect suggestions. Race is instead a tacit presence that accompanies almost every panel of twelve into a Baltimore jury room. Once, in a rare display, a black defense attorney actually pointed to her own forearm while giving closing arguments to an all-black panel: “Brothers and sisters,” she said, as two white detectives went out of their minds in the back row of the gallery, “I think we all know what this case is about.” (p.455)The city of Baltimore (out of nearly 620,000 people, the city is 63 percent black) will spend $22 million to tear down 1,500 blighted houses, the visible, tangible reminder that Mother Nature has a sense of humor.
Even the best white cop feels the distance when he works with black victims and black suspects; to him they are otherworldly, as if their tragedy is the result of a ghetto pathology against which he is fully immunized. Working in a city where nearly 90 percent of all murder is black-on-black, a white detective might understand the nature of a black victim's tragedy, he might carefully differentiate between good people to be avenged and bad people to be pursued. But, ultimately, he never responds with the same intensity; his most innocent victims bring empathy, not anguish; his most ruthless suspects bring contempt, not rage. (p. 506)
The portions of David Simon's book, excerpted above, should explain why the city is dying.