This is one of those “local news stories” that you probably haven’t heard much about in the national media, but it’s a tragedy which may compound itself. On Monday of this week, Baltimore County police officer Amy Caprio, a four year veteran of the force, was responding to reports of a burglary in Perry Hall, a suburb to the northeast of Baltimore. Upon arriving she confronted four youths in a Jeep who had been breaking into and robbing some homes in the neighborhood. Officer Caprio drew her firearm and ordered the youths out of the vehicle. Rather than complying, the driver hit the gas and ran Officer Caprio down in the street. She was pronounced dead at a local hospital some hours later.
A manhunt ensued, eventually leading to the arrest of the four suspects. The driver of the car was sixteen-year-old Dawnta Harris, a resident of a public housing unit on Baltimore’s west side. At the tender age of 16, Harris had already run up a considerable rap sheet. In fact, he had recently been arrested for Grand Theft Auto but had somehow wound up back on the street awaiting trial when Officer Caprio was murdered.
Since Officer Caprio was white and the four suspects are black, this has set off what’s being described in the media as a racial firestorm. (It’s also the reason you’re not likely to be hearing about it on most cable news outlets or on the front pages of the Washington Post or the New York Times the way you would be if Caprio had shot one of the criminals and survived herself.)
There’s been more than enough finger-pointing to go around and a lot of anger in the community and on social media. Why was Harris back on the street and able to allegedly murder Caprio? What were Harris and his friends doing way out in that area to begin with? Where was Caprio’s partner? But the most interesting and potentially explosive explanation and laying of blame comes from the Baltimore chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police. Their president, Lt. Gene Ryan, wrote an opinion piece for the Baltimore Sun in which he places the blame on the shoulders of Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby. You likely remember her for her botched handling of the Freddie Gray riots and the attempted (and failed) prosecution of six Baltimore police officers after the rioting.
In Ryan’s view, Mosby’s catch and release approach to gang violence in the city and her failure to support the city’s law enforcement officers are what led to Officer Caprio’s death.
The safety of our citizens is dependent on a relationship between the Police Department and the judiciary, including Ms. Mosby and her staff, a relationship that honors the common goal of providing for the public protection. For too long now, that relationship has been strained by Ms. Mosby’s apparent “catch and release” philosophy of criminal enforcement.
Dawnta Harris is the latest on a long list of those who have posed an obvious danger to the community but who have, for whatever reason, been released pending trial or in many instances have not even stood trial. Whether or not the home detention system used to hinder his movement was equipped with a GPS locator is not the failure in this sad saga. The fact that he was sent home pending trial at all is the true failure here. Mr. Harris has a history of criminal activity and escape. He undeniably presented a danger to our citizens and should have been detained accordingly. It was the responsibility of Ms. Mosby, as the Baltimore City State’s Attorney, to ensure this outcome. She did not, and we are angry that a brilliant young woman who dedicated her life to public service is now gone from us.
Lt. Ryan goes on to say that the Baltimore City FOP have lost a sister in blue and it’s because of Mosby’s continuing failures.
Whether or not you can draw a straight line from Mosby’s management to the death of Officer Caprio will be a subject of additional debate. But there is little question that Mosby was part of the municipal team which hasn’t exactly run up a record to be proud of. Even outside of City Hall and the office of the State’s Attorney, elected officials in Charm City have continually shot down attempts to pass stiffer crime bills which would take gun crime and repeat offenders off the streets. Their focus on blaming the police or poor community relations for the city’s staggering murder rate has clearly undermined municipal relations with the police.
Ryan may have a point when it comes to Mosby, but this problem runs far deeper and infects not only City Hall, but the City Council and even the state legislature, where representatives from Baltimore County have thwarted attempts to pass tougher crime bills at the state level. Perhaps the senseless loss of Officer Caprio will wake some of them up to the reality on the streets.