Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Baltimore Police Are Blowing Commissioner Fitchet's Smoke At Us

The Baltimore Police Department must have been in contact with Police Commissioner William Fitchet of Springfield MA with this one.

Commissioner Fitchet recently suggested that a citizen overview panel with the power to discipline cops is exactly what his city needs because he is too busy fighting crime to punish his cops himself. Springfield Mayor Sarno called for such a panel. Commissioner Fitchet then defended his cop Jeffrey Asher after the beating of Melvin Jones III, who suffered severe injuries while other cops watched. Now, which one does Fitchet really mean? Is he for or against? Maybe both? Neither? Smoke?

Whatever the logic, Baltimore Police Commissioner Frederick Bealefeld III (above and left), is now trying the same tactic in his city. Read it here.

Public Lying, 101
How do you delude the public?

First, promise them something you know they want. (The Baltimore Police Dept will release the names of officers involved in shootings.)

Next, call what you are doing the result of an epiphany. (Bealefeld consulted with various members of the community, and saw the light.)

Then, explain why you didn’t do this long ago. (“Our concern throughout this entire time has been the personal safety considerations of officers and their families, but we have an obligation as a public safety agency to balance transparency and we feel 48 hours would give us ample time to put things in place for the officer while being transparent enough for the public”.)

Smell the smoke? Is Bealefeld doing the Fitchet Shuffle in Baltimore? Sounds like it. First say yes, and then say no. The Commissioner of the Baltimore Police Department plans to give his cops a 48 hour window before identifying them to put safeguards in place after one or more cops shoots somebody. Interestingly, absolutely no description of what the safeguards are or why they are needed is ever explained. Only that they would be put in place in 48 hours. After that, the names would be released. It is getting smokier in here.

The Reality Of The Promise
Interestingly, this moment of clarity on Commissioner Bealefeld’s part comes just when Baltimore’s Mayor Sheila Dixon is on the way out and newly-elected Stephanie C Rawlings-Blake is coming in. Is the Commissioner trying to pull a fast one on the new kid in town? What a guy. There is no shortage of smoke now.

Stephanie C Rawlings-Blake and her aides revealed “frustration” about not knowing of the policy change before. Maybe that is because the decision has nothing to do with solving citizen complaints against cops in Baltimore and more to do with keeping the pot stirred and the smoke blowing.

Cops say they have citizen support for continued secretion of police names, but none of those in agreement with the current, “no name” policy have the ability to explain the protections the Commissioner would put in place in that 48 hour window, or why we are all better off leaving individual cop identity a secret. Does anybody know what this protection would be? Something like the Witness Protection Program? Maybe the cop should hide in a cheap motel on the outskirts of town until the heat is off? Possibly, they could all wear ski masks. Suspicion is, there’s no action to put in place during that 48 hours except for cops to formulate and agree upon the lie they will trot out to the news and the citizens. Just more smoke.

Ego is what cops breathe every day. Arrogance is what cops eat for dinner, and they are what they eat. The whole idea of withholding the name of a cop for any reason is an outgrowth of arrogance, especially when the citizen makes the payments on that cop’s whole existence.

By bringing this issue to the table, Commissioner Bealefeld is pulling two, worn-out liar’s tricks on us all: the distraction and the delay. Ask any magician or sleight-of-hand performer as to their effectiveness. And to make it worse, he is doing it to the new Mayor on her first week on the job. He has no intention of changing anything, if his comments are any indication.

Mayor, get some movement on a citizen Review Board, with the power to hire and fire, in gear and working. While you are at it, get on the Commissioner’s back today, and make the citizen’s right to know the names of who is shooting them a law, possibly through the use of a citizen oversight panel.

And Baltimore Police Commissioner Bealefeld, shame on you. Shame of you for trying the same old tricks, and for believing the citizen will fall for them. You are wearing a curly wool coat.

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