The professional standing of Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby should, in any rational world, be in tatters. Her history of working with former Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake during the Freddie Gray riots and her subsequent, disastrous attempts to prosecute their own police force left her with more egg on her face than a character in a Charlie Chaplin film. But for some reason she wound up speaking at Jessie Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH Coalition in Chicago this weekend and to hear her version of events she was single-handedly responsible for saving the city and causing the “reforms” to the police force which must surely be at the root of all their problems. Some of the quotes from her remarks, as reported at Western Journalism, are enough to make one question her grip on reality. (Emphasis added)
In a speech before Rev. Jessie Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH Coalition in Chicago on Saturday, Mosby said, “Had I not been in that position as state’s attorney, had I not had a seat at the table to make the unprecedented decisions that I was forced to make, had there been no accountability, there’d be no exposure, there’d be no reform, and the systemic discriminatory police practices in one of the largest police departments would’ve persisted.”
The state attorney, who is up for re-election next year if she chooses to run, said the exposure she brought to the Baltimore Police Department helped usher reforms such as body cameras for the officers, as well as additional training on how to treat suspects once they are taken in custody.
You can listen to the choice excerpts from her comments at the Baltimore Sun, but it doesn’t make her sound any more rational even in context. As WJ goes on to point out, discussions of police body cameras and other performance monitoring tools were already underway in Baltimore years before the Freddie Gray incident. And questions of rooting out bad actors among the police or improving community relations have been ongoing for decades. (Just watch the HBO series The Wire to get a sense of that history.) For Mosby to try to take credit for all of that is an insult to all those in law enforcement and concerned community leaders who have been leading those discussions since she was in grade school.
Also, her claims about being “forced to make decisions” regarding her ill fated attempts to prosecute the city’s own law enforcement officers sound delusional. Not only was she not “forced” to do that, she was widely cautioned against it, both from within municipal offices and in the editorial pages of many publications. She made that choice on her own, almost certainly for political reasons, and it blew up in her face. And none of her efforts did anything to actually make the city safer. That became evident this month when the new mayor finally broke down and asked federal law enforcement to step in and help the city with its out of control gang murder problem.
But this is what happens when our system allows law enforcement and the judicial process to mix too deeply with politics. Mosby is in an elected position and was, at one point, widely reported as having her eyes on higher office. She made a series of moves which were clearly calculated to appease the riotous crowds and curry favor with liberal movers and shakers. If she were actually dedicated to the rule of law she would recognize that the police officers she sought to punish were found innocent and were, in fact, the wronged parties. But none of that matters when you’re counting votes and looking at poll numbers.
The sad part is that people like Mosby continue to be elected over and over again in major cities despite their repeated failure to effectively deal with very real problems or measurably improve the lives of their poorest citizens who stand in harm’s way from gang violence. And for that the entire community has to share at least some of the blame.