Governor Larry Hogan has a serious problem on his hands in Baltimore and it’s the skyrocketing murder rate. In an effort to get everyone on the same page, he’s trying to set up a meeting with the city’s mayor, prosecutors and the judges on Baltimore’s Criminal Justice Coordinating Council. There’s only one hitch in the plan… the judges don’t want to participate. (CBS Baltimore)
With murders in Baltimore surging, city judges say they want to stay out of politics and will not attend the closed-door gathering with the governor and other key players in the crime fight.
WJZ Investigator Mike Hellgren has a closer look at the judge’s reasons and the governor’s blunt response.
Both the governor and mayor don’t like that the judges aren’t attending, but the meeting is going to happen anyway at the ‘all hands on deck’ gathering to try to get a handle on violence.
The number of murders in Baltimore is on pace to break a record. Among the victims a 15- year-old, Jeffrey Quick, 97- year-old Wadell Tate, and a father of 12, Derek Ford.
Hogan has gotten the backing of Mayor Catherine Pugh and they’ve even got State’s Attorney Marlin Mosby (who hasn’t exactly been aggressive in cracking down on crime nearly as much as she wants to crack down on the police) to attend. But the judges sent a letter stating that, they shall not be swayed by public clamor or fear of criticism.
In one sense, it’s certainly reasonable for judges to not want to be drawn into politics. That’s pretty much the opposite of their function and they should be seen as remaining above the fray. But is this actually a political meeting? It sounds more like a policy meeting and a fact finding mission. The governor notes that the judges from the council have attended previous meetings like this so it’s odd that they don’t want to come to this one.
Far more likely is the fact that Hogan has already been calling out the judges in Baltimore for handing down slaps on the wrist for serious crimes. He cites a statistic showing that 60% of offenders who used a gun in a crime – including some repeat offenders – are released within 24 hours without having to serve any jail time. When gangs with guns are using your city as their private hunting ground you’d think that a stronger approach would be called for and the judges might want to participate.
Of course, the judges are likely just reflecting the same attitude expressed by most of the City Council. When new legislation was proposed earlier this year to crack down on gun crime by imposing stiffer sentences, the council watered down the bill until it was meaningless and even then failed to vote on it. If that’s the underlying sentiment in the city government it’s probably not all that surprising that their judges are reflecting it.
Hats off to Governor Hogan for making the effort and to the Mayor for going along with it. But this isn’t a problem they can solve alone. If they truly want the streets of Baltimore to some day be safer than those of Kabul, they’re going to need all hands on deck.