David Simon has an outstanding interview with the Marshall Project. Nothing new to us here, but very well said…
I guess there’s an awful lot to understand and Iâ€™m not sure I understand all of it. The part that seems systemic and connected is that the drug war â€” which Baltimore waged as aggressively as any American city â€” was transforming in terms of police/community relations, in terms of trust, particularly between the black community and the police department. Probable cause was destroyed by the drug war. It happened in stages, but even in the time that I was a police reporter, which would have been the early 80s to the early 90s, the need for police officers to address the basic rights of the people they were policing in Baltimore was minimized. It was done almost as a plan by the local government, by police commissioners and mayors, and it not only made everybody in these poor communities vulnerable to the most arbitrary behavior on the part of the police officers, it taught police officers how not to distinguish in ways that they once did.
Probable cause from a Baltimore police officer has always been a tenuous thing. Itâ€™s a tenuous thing anywhere, but in Baltimore, in these high crime, heavily policed areas, it was even worse. When I came on, there were jokes about, â€œYou know what probable cause is on Edmondson Avenue? You roll by in your radio car and the guy looks at you for two seconds too long.â€ Probable cause was whatever you thought you could safely lie about when you got into district court. […]
We end the drug war. I know I sound like a broken record, but we end the fucking drug war. The drug war gives everybody permission to do anything. It gives cops permission to stop anybody, to go in anyoneâ€™s pockets, to manufacture any lie when they get to district court. You sit in the district court in Baltimore and you hear, â€˜Your Honor, he was walking out of the alley and I saw him lift up the glassine bag and tap it lightly.â€™ No fucking dope fiend in Baltimore has ever walked out of an alley displaying a glassine bag for all the world to see. But it keeps happening over and over in the Western District court. The drug war gives everybody permission. And if it were draconian and we were fixing anything that would be one thing, but itâ€™s draconian and it’s a disaster.
I know that there’s a lot of push to simply call the problem in Baltimore racism, and racism is part of the picture, but the bigger issue is the drug war and the need for us to dramatically reform the criminal justice system in America.