O’Malley: Baltimore Policing Was “Assertive,” Not “Aggressive”

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Martin O'Malley

A brief profile on Martin O’Malley was set to run in this Sunday’s New York Times Magazine. The interview was conducted before protests broke out in Baltimore over the death of Freddie Gray. Outside of a few embarrassing questions about The Wire, it’s pretty cute and harmless. We learn that O’Malley’s favorite rock song is Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run.”

The follow-up interview, conducted Wednesday, was decidedly less cute. The questions weren’t about rock songs (though there are some lines from “Born to Run” that have never been more relevant); they were about O’Malley’s approach to policing while he was mayor of Baltimore from 1999 to 2007. As NYTMag noted, Baltimore police made 100,000 arrests in 2005, among a population of 640,000.

From the interview:

In the last week, people have said, “Some of this could date back to O’Malley, who did a lot of very aggressive policing.” Do you think, in retrospect, that some of the policing was too aggressive?

We never encouraged aggressive policing. In fact, we emphatically discouraged aggressive policing. What we did do was encourage more assertive and more proactive policing, especially to reclaim for the good people in every neighborhood the corners that had been allowed to become open-air drug markets.

The whole mayoral campaign in 1999 was about the issue of policing and policing the police. And what I promised the people of our city was that not only would we improve policing and that not only would we improve how we police our own police officers — and train them and supervise them — but that we would also expand drug treatment, which we did, and would also intervene a lot earlier and more proactively in the lives of our young people, which we also did. We went on to achieve the biggest reduction in Part 1 crimes of any major city in America. The effort continued to be a work in progress after I left office. And every mayor since has sought to achieve the best balance possible for saving as many lives as possible as quickly as possible.

As the questions go on, O’Malley points to his election as a white man in a majority black city and his later election as governor of Maryland as proof that his policies were effective and approved by the public. He also cites his efforts in minority recruitment that resulted in “the most diverse police force Baltimore had ever had in its history.”

Read the whole thing here.

UPDATE: If you’d like a thorough critique of O’Malley’s effect on police work in Baltimore, here’s a long interview with David Simon from Wednesday, over at The Marshall Project.

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