The ACLU of Maryland is criticizing the Baltimore Police Department's decision to change the name of its "stop and frisk" procedures and said they receive regular complaints from citizens about such stops.
Last month, the ACLU filed a public records request with police seeking detailed records covering citizen encounters with police and was recently told the agency needed more time as it revises its general orders relating to "stop and frisks." The Sun reported this week that the agency has changed the name of "stop and frisks" to "investigative stops," in an effort by the agency to distance itself from controversy over the stops in New York City. City attorney Christopher Lundy told the ACLU that the new term was "more proper" way to refer to stops "motivated by reasonable articulable suspicion."
The ACLU posted its request, and the BPD's response, here.
Sonia Kumar, a staff attorney with the ACLU, said in a statement:
"Whether we call it 'stop and frisk' or something else makes no difference to the Baltimore residents stopped and searched without any reasonable suspicion that they have done something wrong. The problem isn't the name - it's how police are treating people.
"By law, an officer must have reasonable suspicion that someone has committed or is about to commit a crime before stopping him or her. But that suspicion alone is not enough to justify a frisk during the stop. In order to frisk, an officer must also reasonably suspect that the person stopped is armed.
"Yet, as deployed in Baltimore and around the country, people of color who are totally innocent of any wrongdoing have been subjected to totally baseless stops and searches by police who are on fishing expeditions. The ACLU routinely hears from Baltimore residents whose rights have been violated in this way. Not only are such stops illegal, but they also corrode the relationship between police and the people whose help they need to keep everyone safe.”
Though most of the large-scale public housing no longer exists in Baltimore (strategically condensing crime to high-rise buildings gave way to the novel idea of exporting it throughout Baltimore via Section 8 vouchers), life in these formally all-black, tax-payer supported enclaves was a 24/7/365 war-zone.
No story illustrates the type of world black people create better than one from 1992 in Baltimore, when an armored vehicle was called in to save 10 officers pinned down by black snipers [10 officers rescued in latest of city-housing problems, Baltimore Sun, 8-21-1992]:
The latest from Baltimore's public high-rise housing projects: 10 police officers, pinned down by sniper fire, had to be rescued yesterday by an armored car as gunmen fired shots from upper floors.
A week earlier, 9-year-old Ebony Scott was murdered and left in a trash bin at George B. Murphy Homes, another city-owned housing project. And a week before that, a drug user was shot to death in a robbery at the same building.
This year, at least six people have been slain at city high-rise projects.
Residents at Murphy Homes even marched to City Hall Wednesday to demand better security.
But for housing officials, who say they are trying to come up with ways to battle the rampant crime, it seems to be a losing cause.
"What can we do? When you have police officers pinned down by snipers firing automatic weapons, and it takes a tank to rescue them, what the hell do you do?" said one city housing official, who asked not to be identified. The same official has been dealing with security concerns from Ebony Scott's murder. "This is a massive, massive problem that we cannot control," the official said."
When police made it inside Flag House Courts yesterday, along the 100 block of Albemarle St., the snipers had fled -- almostsurely to their apartments, police said.
Police said they believe about a half-dozen shots were fired from two of the Flag House Courts buildings, apparently in protest of officers who made a minor drug arrest at 1:30 a.m. on the street below.
An armored vehicle from the Prince George's County Police Department was brought in to help rescue the officers, eight from the city Police Department and two from the city Housing Authority, during a standoff that lasted about five hours.
The vehicle, similar to ones sent to the Persian Gulf war last year, was used "just to insure there was a safe evacuation of those officers," police spokesman Sam Ringgold said.
Bill Toohey, a city Housing Authority spokesman, acknowledged that crime problems have reached a serious level at the four city-owned high-rises: Flag House in East Baltimore, Murphy Homes and Lexington Terrace in West Baltimore, and Lafayette Courts in East Baltimore.
He said the small Housing Authority police force -- he refused to specify their numbers -- is overwhelmed by the drug-related crime.
A private, unarmed security force was removed last year from the buildings because it had no effect on crime, Mr. Toohey said. In fact, drug dealers often fired at the guards sitting behind bulletproof glass, and from time to time, they punctured the glass, Mr. Toohey said.
Federal officials have ordered Baltimore to sever its contract with the Nation of Islam Security Agency and award it to another company, Mayor Kurt Schmoke said today.
It was not welcome news for the Mayor, who said violent crime had fallen in the last two years at the public housing units, where the security agency has been patrolling.
He said the decision, by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, was motivated by concerns about the security agency's ties to Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam. Mr. Farrakhan, who called the Million Man March on Washington in October, is widely accused of anti-Semitism.
"This is tremendously disappointing to me," Mayor Schmoke said. "We do not do this voluntarily."
A spokesman for the Federal housing agency, Alex Sachs, said the order stemmed from a review showing that the city had arbitrarily rated Nation of Islam Security above Wells Fargo, even though the latter had offered a bid about $1 million lower. He said the decision had not been influenced by political pressure or an investigation into the use of the agency in several cities.
Rodney A. Orange, president of the Baltimore chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said black teens have complained to him that "they feel stereotyped. They only want to enjoy their evening, wherever they are going, but very often they're looked at suspiciously."