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Baltimore Mayor Challenges Police Union to ‘Give Respect’

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In a wide ranging ‘state of the city’ address Mayor Catherine Pugh touted holistic approaches to violence reduction and demands the FOP allow civilian control of internal disciplinary boards

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TAYA GRAHAM: This is Taya Graham reporting for The Real News Network in Baltimore City, Maryland. After another record year of violence and questions about leadership, Baltimore City mayor Catherine Pugh gives her State of the City Address.

CATHERINE PUGH: Each and every one of those 343 lives lost due to gun violence in 2017 left behind too many loved ones. And the collateral damage done is generational.

TAYA GRAHAM: The speech is intended to provide a diagnosis of the present.

CATHERINE PUGH: And then there is that truly awful trial, which exposed the very worst of those who betrayed the public trust. The evidence made clear that certain members of our police department were themselves, criminals.

TAYA GRAHAM: But also a prescription for the future.

CATHERINE PUGH: And we will root out bad police and we will reform this department and the Baltimore Police Department will become one of the most exemplary departments in this country.

TAYA GRAHAM: For both, she expressed optimism. She tried to strike a balance between police reform and crime reduction.

CATHERINE PUGH: At the same time we are training our police officers and equipping them with the necessary tools to do constitutional policing in a way that respects the rights of every citizen.

TAYA GRAHAM: And touted her violence reduction initiative.

CATHERINE PUGH: And since last November, we have also seen a significant reduction in violence in every category. This is not a boast. But merely an acknowledgement that this broad based, innovative approach to addressing the root causes of violence works.

TAYA GRAHAM: But she also focused heavily on law enforcement.

CATHERINE PUGH: I want to take this moment to thank Bloomberg philanthropies for honoring my request for $5 million which was received to provide the latest crime fighting technology tools including 100 more CCTV cameras, license plate readers and a gunshot detection system. And I want to thank all of our federal partners, the ATF, the FBI, Homeland Security, our US Marshals and others who have partnered with us to reduce violence in our city.

TAYA GRAHAM: And hinted she might reinstate a controversial surveillance program that launched a plane over Baltimore without public oversight.

CATHERINE PUGH: We’ve been asked by the community, in light of the intensity of our crime fight, to restore the sky video surveillance that was being tested by our police department without informing the community in 2016. Now, we believe that this could be a useful tool today. I’ve responded to the communities and have said that they must make sure that the community wants this and let us examine the proper usage, and we will further assess the use of this added capability, and continue our dialogue with the community should we, and I emphasize should we, decide to implement this program.

TAYA GRAHAM: And there was some cognitive dissonance.

CATHERINE PUGH: Safe Streets is a nationally recognized program that utilizes the Cure Violence Model to reduce violence as an evidence based model for the country. We are expanding Safe Streets from four to 10 sites, from four to 10 sites throughout the city.

TAYA GRAHAM: She celebrated Safe Streets but it was just six months ago when she cut the program out of the budget. She also challenged the police union to allow civilians on internal trial boards, a proposal the FOP has fought.

CATHERINE PUGH: As we know, respect is something earned each and every day. And the easiest way to earn it is to give it. And so, I ask the Fraternal Order of Police tonight to help restore that trust and confidence by allowing two appointed Baltimore citizens to sit on the police trial boards. Let us settle this without legislative action. All of us want the same thing, a safe city and a police department we can all be proud of.

TAYA GRAHAM: In the end, the mayor says she is willing to try whatever works.

CATHERINE PUGH: ….promoting and creating a new era of investment in our neighborhoods and communities is a top priority of this administration.

TAYA GRAHAM: The question is, will her leadership help the city heal and grow? This is Taya Graham and Steven Janis reporting for The Real News Network in Baltimore City, Maryland.