Considerations both theoretical and practical.

There are theoretical concerns and then there are practical considerations.  The announcement by Councilman Nick Mosby that he will run for mayor gives Baltimore voters an opportunity to weigh a theoretical concern against a practical consideration bearing upon the well-being of the criminal justice system in the city.

On the theoretical side the candidacy of Councilman Nick Mosby, husband of State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, raises a concern arising from the checks and balances on governmental power put in place by the Maryland Constitution.  The independence of the prosecutor’s office from the police department is intended to promote the objectivity of prosecutorial decisions and is universally considered to be an important safeguard against abuse within the criminal justice system.  There is a legitimate question as to whether that independence is compromised and the safeguard weakened if the mayor, who controls the police department, is married to the state’s attorney.

On the practical side is the fact that Nick Mosby is the only announced candidate who has stated that reform of the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) will be one of his primary objectives and who is unlikely to be intimidated by the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP).  There is nothing more important to the criminal justice system in Baltimore than getting rid of bad cops and changing the culture of the BPD.  That is not a theory; that is reality.

Nick Mosby will not bother trying to curry favor with Lodge No. 3 of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP); that ship has already sailed.  Lodge No. 3 represents the rank-and-file police officers, sergeants, and lieutenants in the Baltimore Police Department (BPD).  Mosby’s wife, State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, has been vilified by members of the union.  Union president Lt. Gene Ryan went on Fox News in May to blast her for not supporting his members, stating that she “rushed to judgment” in charging six officers for their alleged involvement in the death of Freddie Gray and was acting like the “judge, jury, and executioner” in their cases.  Ryan even blamed her in part for the spike in violent crime that followed the April riots, stating that her lack of support for police officers made them hesitant to carry out their duties because they were fearful of being charged by her with crimes.

Mosby’s candidacy puts in question the future of Police Commissioner Kevin Davis, who was strongly endorsed by the FOP.  Ryan testified in glowing support of Davis at his confirmation hearing before the city council’s Executive Appointments Committee, describing Davis as a “cop’s cop” who learned by listening to his officers.   It seems likely that the strong support of Davis by the FOP means that Davis will not make the same “mistake” as his predecessor, Anthony Batts, did by admitting that the BPD was stuck in a “cycle of scandal, corruption and malfeasance” and in need of “wholesale change” and by predicting that more officers will face arrest as reforms are implemented.  In fact, Davis has said nothing about the need to reform the dysfunctional disciplinary process of the BPD other than to state generally that discipline needs to be “swift and certain.”

Nick Mosby was one of only two members of the City Council to vote against confirmation of Davis as the permanent police commissioner.  It seems likely that Mosby would replace Davis with a commissioner more strongly committed to reform.  One of Mosby’s opponents is State Senator Catherine Pugh.  Pugh has been a staunch supporter of organized labor and the FOP during her years in the senate.  Her candidacy is likely to be much more favorably received by the FOP.

This election will determine how strongly reform of the BPD will be pursued.  There are some clear differences among the candidates on that issue.

October 26, 2015

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