A Baltimore police officer was found not guilty of manslaughter (voluntary and involuntary) in the death of 17-year old Christopher Brown this week. Officer James D. Laboard didn’t deny that he killed the youth but the jury determined his actions didn’t break the law. [Read more…]
|Traffic Cameras (Photo credit: Dave Dugdale)|
Since 2009, the city of Baltimore has collected more than $70 million in fines from cameras designed to catch speeders. Statewide, more than 2.5 million tickets have been doled out. But both Baltimore City and the state of Maryland’s speed camera systems are seriously flawed, sending tickets to people who weren’t speeding and doing little more than causing headaches for drivers.
The Baltimore Sun reported a few weeks ago on their in-depth investigation into the cameras, finding the system of speed cameras is wrought with problems—problems the city is well-aware of but still they stand with hands outstretched to collect on the fines.
The city has led citizens to believe that when they get a ticket from one of these cameras, they are to pay it, plain and simple. That there is no viable process for contesting it. After all, it’s a computerized machine and they don’t make mistakes, right?
But, the system does make mistakes, and plenty of them. Nearly 6,000 tickets have been “deemed erroneous” by city officials because the cameras were miscalibrated or malfunctioning. But we don’t know how many more tickets were erroneous and never contested, as many people just mail in a check rather than deal with the headache of challenging the ticket.
Also, the tickets generated from these machines usually don’t hold up in court because of “glitches in the data” or the prosecution’s inability to produce evidence. Most citizens don’t realize that in addition to the photo these cameras take, they also take videos that can often be used to exonerate you in court.
Citizens aren’t the only ones critical of the system, several area judges have criticized it in open court.
“With so many problems being reported with the city’s system, the integrity of the program is called into question,” said Regina Averella of the AAA Mid-Atlantic. “It’s difficult for motorists to have faith in the system and believe it’s not about raising money instead of saving lives as it was intended.”
And with so many questions about the cameras’ reliability, one has to wonder if the city cares how they are working, and would just rather have people shut up and pay up. It seems Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake would like nothing more than that, telling people to simply obey the speeding laws if they don’t like it, calling the tickets a “minor inconvenience.”
While speeding tickets may seem like a minor concern—too many can cause you to lose your license. And if you are speeding too fast, you could be charged with a criminal traffic offense.
|baltimore (Photo credit: Michael Musson)|
In Maryland, as well as several other states, some security guards have the power of arrest. But here in Maryland, unlike those other states, these guards—referred to as “special police”—don’t have to go through any actual law enforcement training and often have no idea when it comes to due process and protecting the constitutional rights of those they are arresting. This must change.
The Baltimore Sun reports that legislation may soon be crafted to tighten the reins on these security professionals.
The law allows these guards to have law enforcement powers. This can be helpful when there simply isn’t enough officers around to get the job done. It can save the city and the taxpayers money. But, when there are no rules or regulations in place to control these “special police”, it’s an accident or lawsuit waiting to happen.
Of course these security firms– used in colleges, libraries, and other public places—have their own training programs and rules, but they aren’t taught about probable cause, and likely aren’t taught much about unreasonable searches and seizures.
“There aren’t enough checks and balances in the system to prevent a catastrophe from happening,” said Senator James Brochin. “[Security guards] don’t know what probable cause is, they don’t know the rules of the game. We need to fix this.”
There will be a special hearing by the city council on how the city manages these special police licenses, according to the president of the council Bernard C. “Jack” Young.
“We cannot have renegades,” said Young. “They have to have some kind of training in place. They have to be clearly identifiable, so we’ll know who to call when there is an issue or a problem…This is scary.”
Concerns came to a head this past summer when residents of the Cherry Hill community filed a lawsuit alleging that private security working for a property management company have been “terrorizing them.” The residents allege that the special police have been exceeding their authority, pushing boundaries, often with the support of police officials.
Security agencies can apply for these special police licenses, which are granted by the city. But many are wondering if the licensing practice should just be stopped.
“The new police commissioner will have an opportunity to review the program and evaluate it with a fresh set of eyes,” said Ryan O’Doherty, spokesman for the Mayor’s office.
Currently, there are around 1,000 security guards in the state with special police power—too many to be running around with badges and guns but without knowledge of the law.
If you are arrested and charged with a crime, whether it was a security guard or a cop, you have rights. Whether they found cocaine on you or if you are a domestic violence suspect, we may be able to help. Contact our offices today to discuss your case and the legal options available to you.
|USA – MD – City of Baltimore Police
(Photo credit: conner395)
Forty-six-year old Baltimore resident Anthony Anderson died last month while in police custody. The cops said he choked on drugs, but his family wasn’t buying it. This week, the Office of the Medical Examiner ruled the case a homicide.
According to CBS Baltimore, police say the case is still under investigation and only after their investigation is over will the city state’s attorney determine if any criminal charges are warranted. For anyone not related to the police department—this isn’t good enough.
Anderson was leaving a store with his family on the evening of Sept. 21 when he was stopped by officers investigating drugs. Reports indicate witnesses saw undercover narcotics officers grab Anderson and throw him to the ground. There are reports of him being kicked and laughed at by police. Some witnesses say the police tried to prop up his unresponsive body when removing him from the scene to cause less alarm.
But the alarm was already raised. The incident happened in front of his children, his mother, and his 2 and 9-year old grandchildren.
Official cause of death: homicide—“massive internal bleeding from blunt force injuries, including a ruptured spleen and multiple fractured ribs.”
The cops initially said Anderson had choked on drugs he was concealing. But a leaked autopsy report indicated he had no drugs in his system.
“I’m hoping that this officer will not be treated any differently than anyone else who murders someone in the streets of Baltimore City, because that’s what this family and that’s what I consider it to be,” said an attorney representing Anderson’s family.
But too often we’ve seen police get away with crimes that would have sent a regular citizen to prison. Why the seeming disparity? There are several possible reasons, including the fact that a prosecutor knows it will be harder to convict a cop so they are less likely to bring charges, the massive support that is usually behind a police officer regardless of the evidence against them, and the fact that police officers are usually provided lawyers from their local union to represent them against any charges.
What will happen in this case is anyone’s guess at this point, but one thing is for certain—a lack of criminal charges will only deepen the rift between the police of the city and the people they serve.
If you are charged with a drug crime, an assault offense, or any other criminal charge, contact me today. I can offer a free consultation and we can discuss your legal options.
- Milwaukee Police Custody Case Ruled “Homicide”
It’s something that a growing number of police agencies are doing, something that many initially resisted. But videotaping interrogations shouldn’t be something that’s shied away from, as it can provide clarity to both sides of a criminal case and can prove to be an important investigatory tool.
According to the Baltimore Sun, the Baltimore Police Department began using video cameras in its sex offense unit. But now they are considering videotaping other “serious” interrogations, in homicide and assault cases.
Though Commissioner Frederick Bealefeld III supports recording interrogations, he cautions that it’s “not as simple as going to Radio Shack and bolting a camera to the wall.” Instead the department is considering painting interrogation rooms and recarpeting them for acoustics—all in an effort to get the best footage.
In addition, a consultant has been brought in to help officers learn how their behavior on camera will “play” to a jury.
Many agencies within the state already use cameras in interrogations, but Baltimore has lagged in support for the increased technology. Early on, when the General Assembly showed support for videotaped interrogations but didn’t make it a requirement, in 2008, police were worried about how such footage would make them look and were also concerned that suspects wouldn’t want to cooperate if they knew they were on camera.
Now, along with reduced costs, police agencies are warming to the idea.
Hartford County Sheriff L. Jesse Bane calls the recordings a “standard for progressive law-enforcement agencies.” And Bladensburg police Chief Charles Owens refers to them as “just another step in logging evidence.”
What was once resisted is now becoming commonplace, to the benefit of everyone involved.
Not only are videotaped interrogations a great tool for police and prosecutors when building a case, but also for defendants who are concerned about police tactics in the interrogation process.
Right now in a Baltimore police interrogation, the cops take notes and only turn on audio equipment when the suspect is ready to make a statement. Critics say that the audio equipment is often left off until the police have assisted the suspect in coming up with exactly what to say. With cameras recording the entire process, such fears can be eliminated.
A police interrogation is a high stress environment. They typically want you to admit wrongdoing and you often aren’t sure what to say or what would be in your best interest. What every suspect needs to know during this period is that they have the right to have an attorney present. They don’t have to go it alone.
If you’ve been charged with a crime or if you have reason to believe you are under investigation, contact our offices today. We can help you decide what to tell the police and what strategic moves are in your best interest.
For the first time in decades, Baltimore City’s murder rate has fallen below 200. Sure, it’s still at the top of the list of murders per capita, but it’s a significant decline and definitely a reason to celebrate. It represents just the third time since the 1960s since there were fewer than 200 murders.
In 2001, officials were celebrating a murder rate that finally dropped below 300, saying it was just the beginning of things to come. In 2007, it was on target again to breach the 300 mark, but was held below.
Neighboring cities like Washington DC have also experienced a similar drop. D.C. saw a high of 479 murders in 1991, and only 108 in the last year.
According to The Baltimore Sun, murders are often seen as “a reliable barometer of crime because they are less subjective than other categories.”
So what’s the cause of the drop? No one can say for certain, though city officials would like to take credit. From taking down drug organizations to targeted enforcement operations, police, probation, and prosecutors are all believed to have played a role in the overall decline of crime and violence in the city.
“A very small segment of our population pool disproportionately contributes to violent crime in this city. Many of these guys are known to us,” said Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III, who took office in 2007. He admits that when he took over the city lacked a real crime reduction plan. He instituted a plan to focus on the “worst of the worst”, targeting known “bad guys” and creating the Violent Crimes Impact Section.
The existing murders still tend to disproportionately affect members of the African American community. Ninety-five percent of the victims of last year’s homicides were black. Only one of the cases have been closed and only 46% of the murder cases have been solved by police—one of the lowest clearance rates on record.
The positive effects of a lower homicide rate, however, are appreciated by all. Police see kids playing football on streets where they wouldn’t have normally been out and about. Community activists remark on the changing scene, saying there were street corners so packed with drug dealers, in years past, that you couldn’t push through.
Do Baltimore police still go after the “little guys”? Yes. Though they are primarily interested in the “worst of the worst”, they will still arrest you for seemingly petty offenses like drug possession and theft.
If you are facing charges, whether for drug possession or homicide, you need a criminal defense attorney on your side. Contact our offices today to discuss your case and how we might be able to help.