According to the latest Goucher College Poll, 60% of Marylanders said they support cannabis legalization. That is a slight decrease since the last Goucher poll back in March where 67% supported cannabis legalization, though the poll does have an approximate 4% margin of error.

The Goucher College Poll also showed that 88% of Marylanders want to maintain abortion rights as they currently stand. At the same time, 44% said they support abortion under all circumstances while an equal percentage of people said “only under certain circumstances.” 

As for Gov. Larry Hogan, 68% of Marylanders surveyed approved of the job he’s doing, while 53% approve of President Joe Biden.

For a complete look at the Goucher College Poll and all three parts of its recent poll, click here.

Maryland’s largest state employee union endorses Tom Perez for MD governor

On Wednesday, Oct. 27, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 3 and AFSCME Council 67 announced they are endorsing former Obama administration Secretary of Labor Tom Perez as Democratic candidate for Maryland governor.

Together, AFSCME Council 3 and AFSCME Council 67 represent almost 100 local unions, with more than 50,000 employees across the state. Among the other Democratic candidates for governor are 2018 candidate Rushern Baker, current state comptroller Peter Franchot, former Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler, former United States Secretary of Education John King Jr., and author and CEO Wes Moore.

Perez was also the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, a former Maryland secretary of labor, and a councilperson in Montgomery County.

“We are together here in the house of labor,” Perez said after receiving the endorsement. “There has been an unmitigated assault on both civil rights and labor rights: Assaults from state governments, assaults from federal courts, assaults from Republicans in Washington.”

AFSCME Council 3 President Patrick Moran criticized current Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, who has boasted about the state’s budget surplus amid the pandemic.

“It is really sad that there’s such a huge budget surplus during the time of a pandemic, when people are in such need,” Moran told the crowd, criticizing Hogan. “We had to struggle at the onset of the pandemic for basic health and safety supplies.”

Hogan’s outrageous ‘Refund The Police’ advertisement

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, who will end his second term in 2022 and is likely looking at a Senate or even presidential run in the future, has spent the past week misrepresenting police departments’ budgets and claiming police departments in the state have been “defunded.” 

As Battleground Baltimore reported last week, police budgets in the state, including some that Hogan’s own administration said were “defunded,” in fact ended up with larger budgets this year than last.

All of this fuzzy math by Hogan is meant to prop up his “refund the police” initiative, which will provide an additional $150 million in funding to local police, neighborhood safety grants, victims services, and money for Marylanders who provide tips that lead to arrests. 

This week, Hogan added to the misinformation campaign with an advertisement paid for by a group called An America United that repeats many of the same (wrong) talking points about police funding and crime spikes, including the words “stop the far-left lunacy” to describe the defund movement. The ad includes a clip of Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar, who has criticized police funding and regularly faces racist right-wing attacks.

An America United describes itself this way: “An America United is an advocacy organization that rejects the extremes of both political parties, works to break the partisan gridlock, and seeks to bring people together to advance bold, common-sense solutions for all Americans.”

Meanwhile, some police departments that Hogan is claiming need more money continue to resist vaccination mandates, as Battleground Baltimore reported earlier this week.

Also this week, the starting salary for a new officer in the Baltimore Police Department has increased from $55,117 a year to $60,146 a year. That’s nearly a 10% raise. 

The increase was announced on Thursday, Oct. 29, after the police union, the Fraternal Order of Police, reached an agreement with the police department. To accommodate the pay raise, the Baltimore Police Department said they have located $8 million in cuts elsewhere in their budget.

The highest-paying law enforcement agency in Maryland is the Baltimore Police Department.

Vote on ShotSpotter funding deferred

A vote on extending the city contract with ShotSpotter surveillance technology was deferred this week by the Board of Estimates. ShotSpotter is gunshot detection technology that, through microphones placed around the city, uses artificial intelligence to detect loud noises analyzed as gunshots and reports the location of those “gunshots” so that cops can be deployed to that location. It has been in use in Baltimore since 2018.

On the agenda and set for approval was an additional $759,500 towards the tech, which would put the total spent by the City on ShotSpotter at $3,129,000 since it was introduced to Baltimore three years ago. But during Wednesday, Oct. 27’s Board of Estimates meeting, City Comptroller Bill Henry announced the vote would be deferred by one week. It will now go to a vote on Nov. 3.

The technology has long been challenged because it can record people’s conversations, and, as Vice reported earlier this year, ShotSpotter has been alleged to change its AI-generated results. In a shooting case in Chicago, Vice reported that ShotSpotter analysts, at the request of the police, changed a noise ShotSpotter categorized as “fireworks” to gunshots. Months later, Vice reported, the ShotSpotter changed the location of the supposed gunshots—which were initially categorized as fireworks before they were changed—to put it closer to where a suspect’s car was caught on camera. ShotSpotter is now suing Vice for defamation for their reporting, “Police Are Telling ShotSpotter to Alter Evidence From Gunshot-Detecting AI.”

There are also questions about its efficiency. A Chicago Office of Inspector General released a report earlier this year that showed that an examination of 50,000 alerts from ShotSpotter in 2020 resulted in evidence of a gun-related crime just 9% of the time.

Activist DeRay Mckesson spoke out against the renewed contract earlier this week, tweeting that ShotSpotter “is not a crime-fighting tool, has no scientific validity, & is not a value-add,” and encouraging Mayor Brandon Scott and Comptroller Henry, who are on the Board of Estimates, to defer the vote.

“On their website, @ShotSpotter claims that they are responsible for a 15% reduction in shootings from the prior year. What’s their source? It’s the BPD Crime Reduction Plan that does not support this claim at all. Again, we don’t need ShotSpotter,” McKesson tweeted. “By delaying the vote, you’ll be able to see more data that shows that @ShotSpotter is a liability in communities and not a value-add. Their tool is *not* a crime-fighting tool and, again, has not been proven to hold up their claims at all. Please delay the vote.”

Councilperson Ryan Dorsey also criticized the technology.

“Shotspotter is a joke. It has delivered no better outcomes for Baltimore, and will continue to do so for as long as we waste money on it,” Dorsey tweeted after the deferral.

Mosby attacks press, runs from activists

It sure would be nice for Baltimore to have a week free of shenanigans and propaganda by the Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby. Baltimore’s top prosecutor, who has long been criticized by local activists for not quite living up to her “progressive prosecutor” reputation, has a knack for overshadowing her office’s occasional progressive work with petty beef and ridiculous PR moves. That continued this week.

On Monday, Oct. 25, Fox45 revealed a bizarre, completely unnecessary all-caps email sent in response to a citizen’s email. Fox45, who sued Mosby after the SAO ignored the station’s public information requests for any of Mosby’s communications about Fox45 itself, quoted the emails.

“I am very glad FOX45 Baltimore is investigating you,” someone emailed Mosby. 

Mosby’s response: “THE FIRST AMENDMENT DOES NOT ALLOW HARASSMENT AND THE INCITEMENT OF VIOLENCE, LIKE YOU THEY NEED TO STOP HARASSSING ME. I DO MY JOB. YOU SHOULD DO YOURS AND STOP OBSESSING OVER ME BEFORE IT GETS YOU IN TROUBLE. I HAVE EVERY ONE OF YOUR EMAILS.”

It is tough to sympathize with Fox45, a news channel that regularly indulges in the sort of propaganda expected from a flagship Sinclair Broadcasting Network station. But Mosby’s responses to the network—which have included filing an FCC complaint against the station for “biased” coverage—and to a trolling citizen (who is very much allowed to troll an elected official) are part of a pattern.

Last week, lawyers and pastors gathered to claim Mosby—who is under federal investigation—is being targeted by the government because she is a Black woman and a “progressive prosecutor.” Over the summer, Mosby flipped off a man who declared “Free Keith Davis Jr.” to her in public—and then lied about flipping the person off despite there being video evidence. Mosby was also recently sued for not releasing a list of 305 untrustworthy police officers to lawyers who requested the information.

On Friday, Oct. 29, right before the weekend and amid citywide concern over the worst flooding in 20 years (the city is giving out sandbags to residents), Mosby’s office finally released a list of untrustworthy cops to the public. The list released does not feature 305 police officers but only 91, most of whom are no longer with the department, some who have already been convicted of crimes, and a few who are currently in prison.

In response, Open Justice Baltimore has compiled a list that links to each of the 91 officers’ BPD Watch profiles, providing additional information on these cops to what was provided by the SAO.

Thread of the week: @jennylynegan on the SAO’s huge budget

This thread from public defender Jenny Egan is a data-based salvo against the Baltimore Sun’s typical copaganda. In this case, a story by the Sun that claimed the SAO—which has a larger budget than any other State’s Attorney’s Office in the state at $46 million a year—needs more money to put more people in jail. “The piece mentions that the number of prosecutors has gone done [sic] from ‘217 to 164,’” Egan tweeted. “Arrests and prosecutions have also gone done [sic] a lot. Comparing the # of cases matters. But comparing that to the number of public defenders in Baltimore – approximately 82.”

Tweet of the week: @artbma announcing an all gender bathroom

“Welcome to the new John Waters Restrooms. Last night, we dedicated our new gender-neutral restrooms for artist, Baltimore icon, and #ArtBMA Trustee, #JohnWaters.,” the art museum tweeted, along with a photo of the transgressive cinema elder smiling next to a sign that reads, “The John Waters Restrooms / All Gender.”

Brandon Soderberg

Brandon Soderberg is a Baltimore-based writer reporting on guns, drugs, and police corruption. He is the coauthor of I Got a Monster: The Rise and Fall of America’s Most Corrupt Police Squad. Formerly, he was the editor-in-chief of the Baltimore City Paper. His work has appeared in The Intercept, VICE, The Appeal, and many other publications. Follow him on Twitter @notrivia.