City Council Chambers were overflowing on Thursday night with anxious people wanting to learn more about what police, housing authorities and the mayor’s public safety agency did when they learned about the Brooklyn Day block party. That annual event, attended by hundreds of people, ended in the worst mass shooting in Baltimore’s recent history. Two people were killed and 28 others injured in the early hours of July 2nd.
A grueling four-hour long session of Baltimore’s City Council Government Oversight Committee, chaired by Councilmember Mark Conway, ended with few answers and lots of frustration.
Acting Police Commissioner Richard Worley admitted that police received multiple calls from Brooklyn Homes on the day about the party. The Baltimore City Police department fielded calls from residents concerned about growing crowds and BPD sent the Foxtrot helicopter; Foxtrot reported back that everything was “normal.” Those calls were not escalated up the command for assistance.
“It seems from what we’ve learned so far that this was an even greater breakdown in communication and judgment that is absolutely unacceptable,” Worley told councilmembers.
He also admitted that the department should have been making more of an effort to learn about the annual party that has run for nearly three decades, despite having a team who monitors social media for intelligence. But it still doesn’t change the fact that police didn’t act with the information that they knew on the day he said.
“When we saw the crowd gathering and growing and when we got reports that there were people with weapons, we could have and should have done more,” said Worley. “We should have moved additional resources to the Southern District to assist.”
The department is doing an internal investigation into the incident, according to Worley. That is being done in coordination with administrators of the federal consent decree, a series of justice department mandated policing reforms. The investigation report will be publicly released in 45 days, he said.
Council President Nick Mosby laid into Worley, saying that the lack of police response to Brooklyn Homes is an “equity issue.”
“It’s just hard for me to grapple, and to express to residents that if this was in Fells Point, it would have happened the same exact way,” said Mosby. “It’s just hard for me to accept or understand that. And I think it gets to a culture.”
Thursday’s meeting called into question not just the police department but the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement (MONSE), the Housing Authority of Baltimore City and the Department of Transportation which oversees “special event permits.” Leaders from the transportation department said a “special events permit” would not apply to the Brooklyn Day party because they do not issue permits for events held on housing authority property.
Brooklyn Homes is a public housing project, run by the Housing Authority of Baltimore City. CEO Janet Abrahams did not take responsibility for what HABC is calling an “unsanctioned” event. She chastised residents for not alerting relevant authorities about the July 4th weekend block party. Technically, she said they were breaking rules by using the authority’s electricity without authorization and having liquor on site.