Dave Weigel and Arit John, at Bloomberg Politics:
… The former mayor of Baltimore, former governor of Maryland, and likely candidate for the Democratic Party’s next presidential nomination, was standing at the end of a food giveaway at the St. Peter Claver parish hall in northwest Baltimore’s Sandtown neighborhood on Wednesday. He had arrived around 1 p.m., clad in white shirt, suit pants, and tucked-in tie.
And, yes, he’d been lifting pallets of food and water, and pulling the official leafy green of yuppiedom into plastic bags. That way, they could be collected by people whose local Save-A-Lot and CVS has been looted in the riots that followed the death of 25-year old Freddie Gray in police custody. He’d dug into the job, pausing occasionally to note the Irish-American history of the city, or the fact that as governor he’d plussed up the funding of the Maryland Food Bank, or that he knew a great recipe for vegetables…
The last few days had been difficult for Baltimore, and difficult in another way for O’Malley. He lived in Baltimore. He started his political career in 1991, at age 28, on Baltimore’s city council. Twenty-two years later, when he relaunched his political PAC for, probably, a White House bid, it was with a short documentary about how he turned Baltimore around. It was an uncontested, uncontroversial résumé highlight, something that allowed O’Malley to move on to current topics and challenge Hillary Clinton from the economic left.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, he looked like a mayor again, albeit one whose entourage had been reduced to fit one SUV. That was a necessity. The mayor who had brought New York-style “zero tolerance” policing to Baltimore had to confront critics, long after he was in a position to change. On both days, during a walk through the Freddie Gray protests and during his visit to the food giveaway, O’Malley said he had been “promoted to citizen.”
He usually did so when people shared a specific worry about a missing city service, and he assured them that he would talk to the current governor and mayor—that he had already, in fact. “I live in the city. I’m a resident of the city. I’ve spent my entire life trying to make the city a more safe and a more just place.”…
Not every fellow Baltimore’citizen’ hates O’Malley. From that NYTimes article about O’Malley at the Sandtown protests Tuesday:
… A few seconds later and a couple yards closer to the intersection, a young man named Chris Dickens read to Mr. O’Malley a list of young black men who he said had been victims of police brutality.
“I’ve heard of them all,” Mr. O’Malley said. “I think it’s tragic and I think we all need to search for a deeper and better understanding… When you worked for me, were you over there at some of those police funerals we had too? I buried 10 police officers too, half of them were black and half of them were white.”
Mr. O’Malley said he had to keep moving, and Mr. Dickens happily signed off with “take it easy.”
Next came Ernest Taylor, who thanked Mr. O’Malley for getting him off drugs through a government prison program. “Ah, good man,” Mr. O’Malley said. “Say that again. Give me a big hug.”
As Mr. O’Malley moved closer to the intersection, he defended Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake against charges of not caring (“She does, I talked to her today”) and trumpeted his own administration’s “zero tolerance for police misconduct.” …
Ed Kilgore, at Washington Monthly, discussed the political wonkery related to the David Simon interview yesterday:
…[T]he basic idea is that in the pursuit of really impressive crime-fighting statistics (and O’Malley was and remains perhaps the country’s foremost advocate of data-driven police work), not to mention higher office, O’Malley radically pushed up arrest rates via mass arrests and “humblings” (minor status offense arrests) in high-crime areas even as the books were cooked to reduce the severity of reported crimes. The charge is sort of the equivalent of “teaching to the test;” I guess you could call it “arresting to the stats.”…
It’s a pretty deadly charge, one that suggests O’Malley’s successors have been making progress but still cannot overcome the poisons he introduced into the system. We haven’t heard O’Malley’s side of the argument, and there’s a history of bad blood between the two men (though they reportedly made up last year during an encounter in the bar car of the Acela).
But there’s more at stake in this argument than David Simon’s or even Martin O’Malley’s reputation. The whole point of the kind of data-driven resource deployment—not just for police, but for virtually every other domestic government function—O’Malley’s made his signature (as you can read about in Haley Edwards’s profile of him at WaMo in 2013) is to promote transparency and to give everyone a common frame of reference for discussing what to do and not to do at the policy level. If, however, the inputs are artificial, much less “cooked,” the outputs are as well, and the whole exercise is a hoax. So it matters a great deal whether David Simon knows what he’s talking about, as inevitably, policymakers in other cities look at how to make “community policing” more than an empty slogan.
One reason mayors, even more than governors, are handicapped in presidential sweeps is that they’re held responsible for every tragedy during their tenure — senators can opine that mistakes were made or gesture at the guys in the opposing party. In one sense, for horse-race journalists who prefer to ignore mundane issues like poor people of color being targeted by corrupt law enforcement, it’s bad for O’Malley’s nascent campaign that Freddie Gray’s death should happen so soon after he announced it. But we’ll soon hear pundits expounding that all this will blow over by Labor Day. From the Bloomberg Politics article at the top:
… Stephen Kearney, who worked as O’Malley’s director of policy and communications, said in an interview that while several factors contributed to a drop Baltimore’s drop in crime “government has a responsibility to make a difference where it can, and during [O’Malley’s] administration that included better policing, but also policing the police, increasing drug treatment, and making sure there’s better opportunity for kids. And all those factors worked together in Baltimore’s crime reduction.”
“There was a great demand in Baltimore in 1999 to do something about conditions that people did not want to live with and could not live with,” Kearney said. “At the time there was an increase in arrests in Baltimore and many other cities as police and communities tackled these problems. And as violent crime was reduced arrests also declined.”…