Mosby and Hogan should work together on Baltimore crime issues

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan should put aside his disdain for Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, stop the political posturing and work with her as best he can to stem the epidemic of murder and other violent crime in Baltimore that is entering its sixth year and destroying the city. The stakes are too high for the tit-for-tat nonsense going on between the governor and the state’s attorney to continue.

Mr. Hogan and Ms. Mosby appear intent to inflict political harm on each other as they jockey to avoid blame for the continuing crisis in Baltimore. Regardless of which of them is prevailing when it comes to public opinion, it is the people who live in the city who are suffering because of their inability to resolve upon solutions to the crime problem in Baltimore.

Mr. Hogan’s recent proposal to add more than two dozen prosecutors and staff to the office of the attorney general to prosecute violent crime in Baltimore met immediate resistance from Ms. Mosby, and for good reason. Prosecuting street crime in Baltimore is her job. Having prosecutors with jurisdiction over the same crimes committed by the same criminals arrested by the same police department, but who answer to separate bosses, is a recipe for confusion and conflict.

Mr. Hogan knows that his proposal is a non-starter. He could have offered state money to Ms. Mosby to hire more prosecutors. Instead, he proposed action conveying his lack of confidence in the city’s elected chief prosecutor, the latest salvo in a running political battle between him and Ms. Mosby.

The two are at opposite ends of the political spectrum, especially when it comes to law enforcement. In September, Mr. Hogan publicly criticized Ms. Mosby for being soft on repeat offenders and making “excessively lenient plea deals.” In turn, Ms. Mosby accused Mr. Hogan of offering too little support, financial and otherwise, to the fight against crime in Baltimore, claiming that he refused to meet with her to discuss “real solutions” to the problem.

In fairness to Mr. Hogan, Ms. Mosby is not what I would describe as the consummate team player. Every move she makes appears calibrated to achieve maximum political benefit, and she is obsessed with burnishing her reputation on the national stage as a “progressive” prosecutor.

On the other hand, Mr. Hogan has not exactly demonstrated an overwhelming commitment to help Baltimore, especially when it comes to spending state money. He has expressed little if any support for the police reforms necessary to rebuild public trust in the Baltimore Police Department — trust necessary to restore the effectiveness of the department.

The spat has become personal, with a distinct element of childishness. It is the absolute last thing that the city and state need at a time when it is critical that state and city agencies work in concert to target violent offenders and get them off the streets.

The staffing plan just unveiled by Police Commissioner Michael Harrison is an opportunity for a fresh start. The plan includes worthwhile goals such as increasing the number of officers assigned to street patrol, expediting internal investigations and establishing a specialized unit of highly trained officers to focus on offenders who commit violent crimes.

Mr. Hogan and Ms. Mosby should meet with Mr. Harrison to talk about how those goals can be implemented, and then move to a general discussion on what they can do to reduce violent crime in Baltimore. Maybe they can even compromise on a few points and refrain from press releases after the meeting attacking each other for their ignorance and recalcitrance.

One of the most discouraging things over the past five years has been the lack of a sense of urgency and the failure by public officials to recognize that Baltimore is in a crisis. A crisis sometimes causes people to suspend petty disputes and suppress personality clashes while they pursue a shared interest in resolving the crisis. What a godsend it would be if Mr. Hogan and Ms. Mosby did that for the sake of the Baltimore.

History will judge Mr. Hogan and Ms. Mosby unkindly if they continue to place their own political ambitions above the interests of the citizens of Baltimore. They need to stop the bickering and get down to work.

[Published as an op-ed by the Baltimore Sun on December 16, 2019 but not posted to my blog until August 20, 2020. The date of posting that appears above was backdated to place all posts in the order in which they were written.]

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