By Sean Yoes, Baltimore AFRO Editor, syoes@afro.com

Just days before he was terminated by Mayor Catherine Pugh, former Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis tried to make his case that the Baltimore Police Department (BPD), was emerging from one of its darkest periods, which occurred during his time as commissioner.

“Murders and corruption dominate the headlines and make it difficult for Baltimoreans to truly understand the strides in public safety necessary for the Baltimore Police Department to fundamentally succeed in a way it has never known. Those improvements are now taking place in an organization that has long been one dimensional and unable to establish momentum that outlasts a calendar year or an election cycle,” Davis wrote in a Baltimore Sun op-ed, Dec. 30 titled, “Police Commissioner: BPD Making Strides.”

Sean Yoes (Courtesy Photo)

It had been about 45 days since one of Davis’ officers, Homicide Det. Sean Suiter was gunned down in a West Baltimore ally in broad daylight. On the day Suiter died (Nov. 16), Davis spoke at a press conference outside of Shock Trauma. “The shooter knows what he did, he knows who he did it to, a Baltimore police detective,” said Davis, before he called on the support of the community to, “bring this heartless, ruthless, soulless, killer to justice.”

The same community Davis called upon for help in finding the murderer of Det. Suiter was the community put on lockdown by the BPD for a week. This week, it was revealed that not only did BPD officers randomly stop residents of that community and visitors, and checked their ID’s, but police also videotaped individuals they stopped and questioned with their body cameras.

“What I see in the videos is the people of Harlem Park living in a police state where walking out of their house subjects them to a warrantless stop by a police officer asking them for ID,” said David Rocah, senior staff attorney for Maryland’s ACLU in an interview with the Baltimore Sun.

”None of that, in my view, is what is supposed to happen in the United States.”

I’ll skip the analogies to Nazi Germany and South African apartheid, because living in a so-called police state is nothing new for many residents of West Baltimore; no need for draconian examples from history.

But, the new revelations about how Baltimore police conducted themselves in the wake of Suiter’s murder can’t be blamed on deeply rooted BPD corruption established years before Davis’ arrival in 2015; that order to lock down Harlem Park and to surveil its citizens had to come from Davis, the same Davis who 45 days later was saying BPD was, “making strides.”

Kevin Davis was not Baltimore police commissioner when Freddie Gray was murdered in police custody in April 2015. He was not commissioner when members of the Gun Trace Task Force started robbing people and selling dope. But, he was BPD commissioner when the Department of Justice came to Baltimore to observe his officers in action. He was there when the DOJ delivered their scathing “patterns or practice” report, which declared BPD routinely violated the civil and Constitutional rights of Baltimore residents, the vast majority of them Black and poor. Despite the admonitions of the DOJ, Davis felt justified, despite the murky circumstances of Det. Suiter’s murder (which have only grown murkier and murkier), to violate the Constitutional rights of an entire West Baltimore community in an egregious way, seemingly with impunity.

One of the main goals BPD promulgates on a regular basis is building bridges of trust between the department and the community. Davis’ actions in locking down Harlem Park and, specifically, the way he did it, probably blew up many, if not all of the rickety bridges being painstakingly cobbled together by community members or police.

Sean Yoes is Baltimore editor of the AFRO and host and executive producer of First Edition, the AFRO’s video podcast, which airs Monday and Friday at 5 p.m. on the AFRO’s Facebook page.

Sean Yoes

AFRO Baltimore Editor