A list of more than 300 Baltimore officers accused of corruption has raised tensions between police officials and District Attorney Marilyn Mosby.
Baltimore’s police union said they plan to file a legal complaint against Mosby for releasing the list. The police commissioner said it would further damage the relationship between the department and the public.
The court ordered Mosby to release the list in response to lawsuit filed by nonprofit group, Baltimore Action Legal Team. The list of 305 officers drafted in 2019 includes several top police officials, such as a former head of internal affairs and a former deputy chief of patrol. Reports show that 177 of the officers still work in the department.
The list includes officers accused of excessive force, sexual assault, planting evidence, false arrest or imprisonment, conducting illegal searches, making false statements and other corruption claims, Mosby said. Some of the claims have not been corroborated, however.
Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said he was unaware that the list existed. He’s afraid that it may impact officer morale.
“We would certainly hope there would be communication about the process of being added to any kind of list, instead of learning about it after the fact,” Harrison said to the Baltimore Sun newspaper this week. “It’s a morale issue, a performance issue.”
The newspaper reports that, contrary to Harrison’s claims his department was unaware of the list, an email between Deputy State’s Attorney Janice Bledsoe and the department’s former chief of legal affairs shows police leadership has had a copy of the list with the allegations against the officers since its existence was made public.
Mosby denied earlier claims that prosecutors used the list to avoid putting officers on the stand with “credibility issues,” or a “do-not-call list.” She fought to keep the list private in court, arguing that it would reveal personnel information.
The organization behind the lawsuit said Mosby only released the officers’ names. They had been fighting to get the list since 2019.
Mosby said her office regularly sent internal affairs records to defense attorneys so that they could argue before a judge whether the misconduct should be admissible in court. She said it is part of an agreement with the police department. It’s the police commissioner’s job to keep up morale, not hers, Mosby added.
“They’ve known why the officers were on the list,” Mosby said.
“I can’t tell them what to do with their officers, but if they have repeated Fourth Amendment violations and repeated excessive force complaints, it could be relevant in a case pertaining to that officer,” Mosby said. “I think it’s relevant. I think it’s in the interest of justice.” The Fourth Amendment guarantees people’s right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.
Harrison said that officers on the list didn’t understand why prosecutors put their names on there, and he asked Mosby for the “criteria and process” for the officers to get their names removed.
The department has been the subject of a U.S. Department of Justice investigation stemming from widespread corruption in its Gun Trace Task Force. In 2017, eight task force members were charged with racketeering, robbery, extortion, and overtime fraud in what has been called the most shocking corruption scandal in Baltimore history. They admittedly abused their power for more than 10 years.
The task force is so notorious that three TV shows have been made about it.
In 2017, Baltimore and the DOJ entered into a consent decree calling on the police department to clean up its act. Harrison said the list could erode the department’s reputation.
“I have to make sure we have not lost all of the ground,” he said.
The police union claims the list never existed, and Mosby fabricated one just to comply with the order. Union officials told the officers on the list to advise them of any dates they have been asked to testify or were granted a warrant by Mosby’s office since Dec. 3, 2019, and their internal disciplinary record.
“These are first steps as we build our case against this compromised individual,” Baltimore City Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3 reportedly said in an email to its members.
The union filed the complaint with the Maryland Attorney Grievance Commission, a division of the Office of Bar Counsel. Union officials also brought up current fraud allegations against Mosby.
“This serves as another example of Mosby only being transparent or accountable when politically advantageous,” said union president Mike Mancuso. “This is another example of Mosby blaming everyone else for her shortcomings.”
Still, some Baltimore residents say they believe the publicized list will increase police accountability.
Tawanda Jones said she was not surprised that the officers involved in the in-custody death of her brother, Tyrone West, made the list. The officers reportedly subdued West with batons, fists and pepper spray following a traffic stop in 2013. He died from a heart condition worsened by the violent encounter with the officers and hot weather.
However, Jones said she was surprised at how short the list was. It’s “just ridiculous,” she said, that so many of the officers listed still work for the department and testify in court.
“Then they wonder why there’s this gap between the community and these officers who are supposed to protect and serve,” Jones said. “When you’ve got ticking time bombs still working the streets with no accountability, trust me when I say something bad is going to happen.”
Several Baltimore residents called for cuts to police funding and redirecting spending to social services Thursday night during the last hearing for the city’s annual budget. The city council has proposed spending $4.9 million more than last year on the police department.