This will be the last weekly roundup of 2021. Over the next two weeks, Battleground Baltimore will be doing some year-in-review-ing, and likely a little bit of prognostication into what Baltimore will look like in 2022. We imagine what we’ll see next year will be a lot of the things that you’ll see in this week’s roundup, actually: residents fighting to be heard by seemingly indifferent and poorly informed city officials; plenty more law enforcement malfeasance; the occasional minor victory that gives regular residents far from City Hall or police headquarters a leg up; and one “nostalgic fantasy” or another about this wonderful, often fucked-up city being peddled for political and ideological gain.

Poppleton is what development looks like for Black Baltimoreans

Residents of West Baltimore’s Poppleton neighborhood gave city officials a tour of the overgrown, trash-strewn lots and the mounds of rubble that have come to define their historically Black neighborhood after more than a decade of supposed “revitalization” from well-connected, out-of-town developer La Cité.

The residents who organized the tour are fighting the city’s use of eminent domain to remove them from the homes they have lived in for decades.

“I want everyone in Baltimore to see what eminent domain is like,” said Sonia Eaddy, a third-generation Poppleton resident who has owned her home since 1992.

The house has been owned by Black families as far back as the late 1920s—a particularly impressive feat considering Baltimore City’s racist lending practices. Painted on the side of Eaddy’s 321 North Carrollton Ave. home is a 20-foot mural reading: “SAVE OUR BLOCK. Black Neighborhoods Matter. Losing my home is like a death to me. Eminent Domain law is violent.”

The neighborhood’s development has, over the past 15 years, mostly yielded displacement and demolition, and little new housing, except for two sleek buildings dubbed Center/West.

The Saturday, Dec. 11, tour for Deputy Mayor Ted Carter and Housing Commissioner Alice Kennedy, then, was a way to show the litany of injustices Eaddy’s community has endured in recent years. 

Read the rest of this story, “‘Eminent Domain is Violent’: Poppleton residents show the city what development looks like for Black Baltimoreans,” here.

Another month of racially disproportionate traffic stops

Over the past few months, Battleground Baltimore has, with data provided by City Councilperson Ryan Dorsey, called attention to ongoing disproportionate traffic stops by police in majority Black and heavily divested council districts. Back in August, when we first reported on this, we noted that the Ninth District was, by far, enduring the most traffic stops. 

“In Baltimore City’s majority Black and heavily-divested Ninth District in West Baltimore, police made 516 car stops in June 2021 and 557 car stops in July 2021,” we reported. “The Ninth District contains some of the city’s poorest neighborhoods, which are often less walkable and bike-able than other whiter parts of the city and are beholden to the city’s poor transit infrastructure—which puts more people into cars in areas where police are more apt to make traffic stops.”

The Ninth District still topped the list when we revisited the topic with a few more months of data in November.

“In August, there were 477 stops in Ninth District; in September, 356 stops, and in October, 386 stops,” we reported. “For Dorsey, the fact that the past five months of data show the highest number of stops in majority-Black parts of the city like the Ninth District make the ‘implicit bias’ of BPD pretty, well, explicit.”

Dorsey also noted that this kind of racially disproportionate policing was a major part of the 2016 Department of Justice investigation into the Baltimore Police Department and should be of concern to those overseeing the Consent Decree. It has not been addressed.

Data for the month of November shows that there were 456 car stops in the Ninth District. 

The data also shows a significant jump in the number of stops in the 12th District, which also contains some of the city’s most heavily divested Black neighborhoods: 181 in August; 341 in September; 301 in October; and 350 in November.

The whole list of in-custody deaths in Maryland, 2003-2020

Thanks to a public information request filed by The Real News Network’s Taya Graham and Stephen Janis of the Police Accountability Report, you can view and download a list of every death in police custody in Maryland from 2003-2020. 

The request came after more than 400 medical pathologists called attention to the work of former Medical Examiner Dr. David Fowler, whose testimony during the Derek Chauvin trial raised questions about Fowler’s bias towards police and general competence. Fowler all but dismissed the knee Chauvin pressed into George Floyd’s neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds as reason for Floyd’s death, and suggested exhaust from cars, Floyd’s heart condition, and his use of drugs were major factors.

Chavin was found guilty of murder and Maryland is looking into cases overseen by Fowler, who was the Chief Medical Examiner during much of the past 20 years.

Read and watch Graham and Janis’ story here, where you can also view the full list.

No more drug testing for (most) prospective city employees

Most of those applying to work for Baltimore City will no longer be subjected to alcohol or drug testing thanks to the approval by the Board of Estimates this week. Now, only those applying for ‘safety sensitive’ jobs will still be tested. Safety sensitive jobs is a fairly expansive list and includes jobs in which one is driving, operating heavy machinery, responsible for the safety of others, dealing with children, or handling money or other “sensitive” materials.

The change was encouraged by Mayor Brandon Scott, who made campaign promises that he would reduce barriers to employment that were exclusionary or inequitable. Battleground Baltimore wants to call attention to the subtle but important way Scott frames his support. Given how terribly people who use drugs are treated, it’s encouraging to see them framed as employees that are among “the best and brightest.”

“We want the best and brightest candidates to help us provide efficient and effective City services to our residents,” Scott said in a statement. “Frankly, the outdated and costly pre-employment drug and alcohol screenings only served to block qualified and passionate residents from obtaining employment with the City.”

City Comptroller Bill Henry, who also encouraged this policy change, noted that drug testing is strictly exclusionary and nothing more.

“Pre-employment drug testing for non-safety-based jobs is only effective at preventing qualified applicants from applying for jobs,” Henry said in a statement. “It’s not evidence-based, it’s costly.”

Keith Davis Jr. rejects plea deal

Keith Davis Jr., a man who was shot by police in June 2015 and later charged with a murder that occurred earlier on the same day, rejected a plea deal offered to him this week. The plea was an offer of 50 years in prison with 35 of those suspended—so he would be doing 15 years—and was an Alford Plea, a guilty plea in which a defendant is allowed to maintain their innocence while conceding that evidence provided would be enough to get a conviction.

Davis has been tried for the same homicide four previous times—there have been two hung juries and two guilty verdicts that were overturned—and will now face a fifth trial. The ongoing saga has been covered by The Real News for years and has gained the attention of local and national activists, including DeRay Mckesson. Last month, Baltimore Magazine published what may be the definitive piece on Davis, calling attention to the problems, inconsistencies, and misconduct surrounding Davis’ ongoing prosecution. Davis is the second person to be tried this many times for the same crime.

Seemingly in response to Davis rejecting his plea, Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, whom activists have criticized for going forward with this ongoing prosecution, posted an image to Twitter (since deleted) and Facebook (still there) of a little girl seemingly rolling her eyes, along with the words, “Thanks niece for summarizing (G-rated) how I feel about my Haters today!”

Dollar homes hearing on Monday night

City Council President Nick Mosby is continuing his quest to resurrect the fraught dollar homes program without providing any information about it except for social media propaganda. As Battleground Baltimore reported last month, the success of the original dollar homes program has been vastly overstated.

Mosby has, over the past two weeks, appeared on a number of “live” internet events which are promoted on the official City Council Instagram (which Mosby regularly uses to post pictures of himself) and framed as informational events about dollar homes, but which really equate to promotions for the policy.

On Monday, Dec. 20, the dollar homes bill has a hearing. Read up on the limits of the proposal in “‘A Nostalgic Fantasy’: Baltimore’s $1 homes explained,” by Jaisal Noor.

Thread of the Week: @BmoreCourtwatch on bail review for children tried as adults

We think it makes sense to end the year with a return to Baltimore Courtwatch’s weekly thread detailing the comings and goings of court. Read this week’s thread of Thursday’s hearings for children being tried as adults: “A child who is need of medication that he is not receiving while being caged. ASA Hemmerle brings up dropped charges and recommends HWOB [held without bail] Judge Schiffer orders HWOB,” the first tweet explains.

Tweet of the Week: Christopher Ervin on city hiring 

Local radio host, former City Council candidate, and founder of Lazarus Rite shows just how much more needs to be done when it comes to reducing the barriers for Baltimoreans to get jobs: “Hired one of our former students to drive a waste truck for @BaltimoreDPW because the agency was short handed. After almost a year working for the city through us he applied directly to the city to do exact same job. HR told him he was unqualified. Not enough experience,” Ervin tweeted.

Brandon Soderberg

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.