After one of the deadliest weekends in Baltimore in several years – 8 people dead, 20 shot in all during the period from Friday afternoon to Monday morning – comments by the city police spokesman are prompting blistering criticism in some quarters.
“Let’s share this quote again because it’s so good,” wrote novelist Laura Lippman on Facebook today, pulling out this comment by Anthony Guglielmi, spokesman for the Baltimore City Police Department.
“This is a little bit of a spike in terms of the weekend, but all in all, we’re pretty satisfied with the way the city is headed, violence-wise,” Guglielmi said, in Carrie Wells’ story in today’s Baltimore Sun. Commenters, prompted by former Sun reporter-turned crime-and-mystery-novelist Lippman, piled on.
“I’d like to make that police spokesman repeat that statement face to face to the families of the dead and wounded,” Marjorie Tucker wrote.
“What they really mean is that as long as no white people, famous people, tourists, or kids were killed they’re cool with it,” Brian Quertermous added.
“Guess they mean young, black, male Baltimoreans seem to be policing themselves,” wrote ex-Sun reporter Frank Roylance.
“Seriously, what the hell, this weekend? … Batts and SRB both have their phones off the hook, so the bon mots of their minion will have to suffice,” the popular Baltimore Crime blog said, repeating Guglielmi’s words.
Since then, Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts has appeared at a hastily-called press event today in the 700 block of Kenwood Avenue where five people were shot and one killed on Saturday.
(Mayor Rawlings-Blake, for her part, was presumably winding up the last day of her participation in another meeting in Las Vegas, this one a U.S. Conference of Mayors gathering. Her spokesman issued a statement saying she vows “to do everything we can to reduce violence and make our neighborhoods safer.”)
“I Can See How it Looks Bad”
Guglielmi, meanwhile, asked to respond to negative responses to his quote, said he thinks people are missing the context in which it was given.
“The question to me was ‘How does the department feel about violence in the city in the past year?’” he said in a phone conversation with The Brew this afternoon.
“Overall we’re trending down. We don’t want people to lose faith in the Baltimore Police Department.”
Officers “are working hard to achieve this” and are “going to keep doing what we’re doing, going after bad guys with guns, and working these cases very hard,” Guglielmi said, noting that they already have established the gang connection in at least one of the shooting scenes.
Nevertheless, were his comments as quoted off-base?
“I can see how it looks bad with the weekend,” Guglielmi said. “The weekend’s actions were unspeakable, and not acceptable.”
Some commenters had a more nuanced view of Guglielmiu’s remarks. “The danger of mixing political messaging with police work. Awful,” Tim Windsor wrote on Facebook.
“Putting this in perspective, however, it’s not the police doing the murdering,” Preston Wills wrote, as part of the lengthy thread on Lippman’s page. “I think we should be more outraged by the actions of the killers than by the words from a Baltimore police spokesperson.”
But others said his seemingly dismissive words carried weight.
“I think it is the attitude of the Police – and the implicit criticism that they are not controlling crime – that has annoyed people, rather than anyone accusing them of murder, Preston,” wrote David Gatehouse.
“Should the police ever be satisfied with the way things are going, violence-wise?” Lippman asked. “And, more to the point, should they be satisfied in a city that saw. . . 8 dead in a weekend?”