With presidential candidate Martin O’Malley registering from zero to three percent in most national polls, the pressure was on the former Maryland governor and Baltimore mayor to come up clutch and hit a towering home run during the Oct. 13 first Democratic debate in Las Vegas. The general consensus is O’Malley came up significantly short of the fence.
Democratic presidential candidate former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley speaks during the CNN Democratic presidential debate Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Moderator Anderson Cooper wasted no time in calling out and slamming O’Malley on his dubious (I’m being polite) record on law enforcement as mayor of Baltimore.
With a tear in his eye, O’Malley shamefully invoked the name of the martyred Dawson family for political cover from his failed, “zero tolerance,” policing policy.
In April, just two days before the uprising erupted in West Baltimore, O’Malley was offering some revisionist history in reference to his time as mayor.
“We achieved the biggest reduction in…crime of any city in America, and none of it was easy. All of it was hard,” O’Malley told the Washington Post.
What’s really hard is getting locked up for drinking a beer on your front stoop after a hard day of work, spending 72 hours in the nefarious Central Booking, only to be released without being charged.
You know what else is really hard? When you lose your job because you were away from work for three days and couldn’t call out because you were down, “the Bookings,” among some of the worst of Baltimore’s criminal milieu. And years later you haven’t been able to get steady work because you have an arrest record you haven’t been able to have expunged.
Now, that’s really hard.
But, that is the reality for thousands of mostly poor, mostly Black men who endured the O’Malley regime and the ruthless illegal arrest machine that locked up hundreds of thousands of mostly poor, mostly Black people from 1999 to 2007.
On the morning of the Democratic debate, Marvin “Doc” Cheatham, former president of the Baltimore branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) sent out an email with the subject line, “lest we forget,” reminding recipients of the NAACP and ACLU class-action lawsuit filed in 2006, against city and state political and law enforcement officials over so-called illegal arrests. The plaintiffs won an $870,000 settlement, which challenged the pattern of improper arrests by the Baltimore City Police Department.
O’Malley claims his policies significantly reduced crime during his tenure, but when you drill down into the numbers that narrative doesn’t really endure. In 1999, when O’Malley first took office Baltimore experienced 305 homicides. The very next year the murder rate did drop significantly to 262, but the dip coincided with significant reductions in homicides in most big cities across the country. The murder rate dropped mildly to 256 in 2001 and even less dramatically to 253 in 2002. But, in 2003 the number edged back up to 270 and increased again to 276 in 2004.
From 1999 to 2004 the Baltimore City Police Department under O’Malley also went through four police commissioners: Ron Daniel, Ed Norris, Kevin Clark and Leonard Hamm. Many argue the department’s rank and file has never fully recovered from the seemingly tenuous leadership during those volatile years.
But, more importantly perhaps, the yawning chasm ripped open between police and the Black community in the wake of zero tolerance has only widened as evidenced by the events of April 2015. Further, Black neighborhoods like Sandtown-Winchester — the community where Freddie Gray lived and died — continue to reel from the zero tolerance policing policy and mass incarceration.
“The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails!” Sen. Sanders exclaimed, in response to a question about Sec. Clinton’s infamous email fiasco. It was the line of the night and ultimately, Sanders and Clinton stole the show. At the end of the night O’Malley needed an emphatic home run to really get into the game. He had a few decent moments, but in Las Vegas the former mayor of Baltimore may have finally crapped out in his seemingly Quixotic bid for the White House.
Sean Yoes is a senior contributor for the AFRO and host and executive producer of AFRO First Edition on WEAA 88.9