By Sean Yoes
AFRO Baltimore Editor
The following was published in the New Orleans Advocate, October 15, 2014, recounting the murder of a woman ordered by a member of the New Orleans Police Department in 1994:
“Two decades ago, amid one of the darkest chapters in the city’s history, a flurry of scandals brought the New Orleans Police Department to its knees. Felonies committed by police officers became so commonplace they could have been counted as a separate category in the yearly crime data. But, the case of Len Davis emerged as an enduring emblem of police corruption, shattering the public trust and scarring the NOPD beyond measure. Even in 1994, a bullet-riddled year in which the city saw an unprecedented 421 murders, the depth of misconduct exposed by a monthslong FBI probe met with shock and revulsion. Davis, a patrolman known as “Robocop” and “the Desire Terrorist,” had been recorded on a federal wiretap ordering the Oct. 13, 1994, execution of Kim Groves, a 9th Ward mother who a day before her death reported Davis and his partner for police brutality,” wrote Jim Mustian.
The murder of Kim Groves, including the horrifying recording of Davis gleefully ordering her execution as he drove through the streets of the 9th Ward garnered national headlines and was featured on network television news shows. New Orleans then was known as the “murder capital of the country,” with 421 murders that year in 1994, an “unprecedented” number for that city.
Michael Harrison was a young law enforcement officer in his third year of service as a member of the New Orleans Police Department in 1994. Twenty years later in 2014, Harrison, a native of New Orleans would lead his hometown police department. He helped contribute to the department’s emergence from a nefarious milieu during the dark days of the 1990’s, when it was one of the most corrupt law enforcement agencies in America, as he moved quickly through the ranks of the NOPD.
Now, Harrison leads the Baltimore Police Department (BPD), an agency considered by some to be one of the most corrupt in the country in the wake of the Gun Trace Task Force scandal and the murder of Det. Sean Suiter.
The latest chapter of BPD corruption revealed itself when James Lloyd, 45, a veteran homicide sergeant was charged last week with extortion and kidnapping. Lloyd is being held without bail.
The charges against Lloyd allegedly stem from a dispute over patio remodeling being done at his home in the Gwynn Oak community. According to a report by veteran investigative reporter Jayne Miller of WBAL TV11, Lloyd and three other detectives, Manuel Larbi, Troy Taylor and Juan Diaz wielding guns, badges and threatening arrests, allegedly strong armed contractors working on Lloyd’s patio to give him money and workers were detained until they agreed to do so.
According to the BPD, the police powers of Diaz, Taylor and Larbi have been suspended and they are confined to administrative duties, while Lloyd remains locked up in Baltimore County.
Ironically, Lloyd was a lead investigator in Suiter’s murder in 2017.
Against this backdrop, Harrison has pledged to rid the BPD of systemic corruption during his tenure during a recent conversation with the AFRO. He maintains he is moving the agency in the right direction.
“I think we’re making great strides to reform our department. There’s a lot that has already been done that many people don’t know about. We’re changing the culture of the agency, we’ve changed the management style,” Harrison said.
“Here’s the thing, I am leading this department by a concept called accountability driven leadership. Everything rises and falls on leadership and everything falls on accountability. And accountability without transparency is not accountability at all. Because it is not how well you do a thing, but rather how many people know you did a thing well.”
Part two of the AFRO’s conversation with Commissioner Harrison will be published in next week’s paper and on afro.com.
Sean Yoes is the AFRO’s Baltimore editor and author of Baltimore After Freddie Gray: Real Stories From One of America’s Great Imperiled Cities.