Baltimore News Flash – This Week in Baltimore – Edition 3

January 15-21, 2018

Mayor Catherine Pugh Fires Police Commissioner Kevin Davis

In a stunning move, early on Friday, January 19, 2018, Mayor Pugh announced that she was replacing Commissioner Kevin Davis (who was midway through a 5-year contract set to end in 2020) with Darryl DeSousa, a 30-year veteran who rose through the ranks of the Baltimore City Police Department—but also served as deputy commissioner under Davis [http://baltimore.cbslocal.com/2018/01/19/mayor-pugh-replaces-police-commissioner/]. Her main reason for the firing was her own impatience with the police department’s progress in reducing crime and violence in the city. In taking this action, Pugh follows a recent pattern of revolving-door commissioners at a time when the city needs stability. DeSousa will be the 40th Commissioner in the City’s history—and the 3rd in the last 3 years. In my view, the spike in crime did not happen overnight, and its reduction will not be an easy feat, either.

The complete press release by the Mayor can be read here [http://www.southbmore.com/2018/01/19/baltimore-police-department-commissioner-kevin-davis-fired-replaced-by-darryl-desousa/.]

DeSousa previously served as Northeast District commander around 2011 (this happens to be the district I’ve lived in for 56 years) and claimed, this morning, that under his command, the District achieved the highest reduction in crime in decades. I can neither confirm nor refute his claim. But my few direct dealings with Northeast District police over the years have been less than reassuring.

Judging by his initial appearance before the public, I am not impressed. A long-winded speaker with a propensity for throwing around acronyms, he’s a transplant from New York (having moved to Baltimore to attend Morgan State University) who now plans to borrow his new “initiatives” from New York and Los Angeles (we’ve already had a New Yorker, Ed Norris, and a Californian, Anthony Batts, as commissioners, and in my view, they have not been the most effective commissioners for Baltimore).

However, the Baltimore City Council—and the Fraternal Order of Police—seem to be on board with the Mayor’s new choice in leadership.

DeSousa’s first act as Commissioner-Elect was a massive deployment of officers—“flooding the streets”—to crime “hotspots” all over Baltimore.

Considering the department’s inability to hire and retain officers (especially ones willing to reside in the City), not to mention recent scandals and investigations of their ranks, I am skeptical that this effort can be kept up for long.

Mentally Ill Patient in Crisis Ejected from University Hospital

This story touches me personally. My experience with mental illness has made me a fierce defender of other people who struggle with this spectrum of illnesses.

The story first surfaced on January 9, 2018, when a local psychotherapist, Imani Baraka, encountered and recorded video of the eviction of a 22-year-old Black woman dressed only in a hospital gown and socks, on a frigid night, from the Midtown campus of University of Maryland Medical Center, Midtown Campus, commonly known in Baltimore as University Hospital.

After the video, posted on social media, went viral, the Hospital issued an apology and took “full responsibility” for its negligence.

On Thursday afternoon, January 18, 2018, the family of the young woman, along with their lawyer, announced that they were filing suit against the hospital—and set the record straight about their loved one [http://baltimore.cbslocal.com/2018/01/18/woman-left-outside-hospital-2/]: she is not homeless, nor is she uninsured. Furthermore, she had been reported missing around the time the video was made.

Over the past week, piecemeal updates to the mysterious case appeared in both local newspapers and television news programs, with wild speculation on social media about how and why this barbaric act occurred. In fact, while watching a live feed of the family’s news conference on Thursday, I had to resist the urge to respond to some of the uninformed comments I read, suggesting that the woman should have been thrown out because she was “acting up”! Not only do such comments display a lack of understanding about the obligations of medical practitioners (“First, do no harm”—from The Hippocratic Oath), but they also betray a lack of understanding of mental illness—and worse—of common human decency.

They also may not be aware that this despicable treatment of a patient in need is not an isolated case. Do they not know that another “unruly” patient died in a hospital after being tased by police in 2014? [See http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/crime/bs-md-ci-police-tasing-20140515-story.html.] The patient, a disabled teenager, was being “combative” as he lay seriously ill in his hospital bed.

If you or your loved one were delirious or otherwise not in control of your faculties, would you expect to be tased to death? I doubt it.

Afterthoughts

I have no feel-good Baltimore stories to highlight this week. Chaos seems to be the order of the day in Baltimore—and in down the road in Washington, D.C., where the Senate, at this hour, is waging an 11th-hour battle over the fate of the Federal Spending Bill.

God help us all.


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