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Crime & Justiceby Mark Reutter6:22 pmApr 29, 20150

Mayor takes a swipe at Hogan’s inexperience, defends the timing of her request for troops

“I know that he’s a new executive. . . So I can understand that anxiety,” Rawlings-Blake says of the governor who is now camped out in Baltimore

Above: Mayor Rawlings-Blake suggested today that Gov. Hogan was over-eager to call out the National Guard.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake today defended her decision to wait until Monday evening to ask Gov. Larry Hogan to call out the National Guard, saying she has much more experience than he in handling a major crisis.

Hogan, a Republican who became Maryland’s chief executive in January, said he was prepared to activate the National Guard on Saturday when a peaceful Freddie Gray demonstration turned violent near Camden Yards – then tried three or four times on Monday to reach Rawlings-Blake as protests following Gray’s funeral escalated into rioting and arson in parts of the city.

Once he received the mayor’s request for help, Hogan said he activated state resources, including about 2,000 Guardsmen, “within about 30 seconds.” Yesterday he moved the governor’s office to Baltimore, camping out, he informed the press, until he makes sure that Baltimore is “safe” and “cleaned up.”

At a City Hall press conference, Rawlings-Blake responded today.

Anxiety vs. Crisis-Tested Leadership

She attributed Hogan’s eagerness to send troops to Baltimore as early as Saturday to the “anxiety” of someone who has not been confronted by the multiple crises she has during her five years as mayor.

“I know that he’s a new executive of anything. So I can understand that anxiety.”

“I’ve been tested,” she continued, adding, “I’m not going to second-guess what he was thinking. It would be nice to have that same courtesy from him.”

The full exchange started when WBAL’s Jayne Miller asked the mayor: “Were you hesitant and why” in asking Hogan to call out the state troops.

“I’m not going to politicize this. I’m not trying to gain any political points for my handling and/or the state’s handling of this,” the mayor replied.

She then launched into her defense: “People joke when they say that I’ve been through everything but the plague of the frogs. I’ve been through Snowmageddon. We’ve had earthquakes, we’ve had tornadoes, we’ve had derechos, we’ve had floods.

“I know,” she continued, “the anxiety that comes up when you are faced with a crisis. I know that he’s a new executive of anything. So I can understand that anxiety–”

“On his part?” The Brew asked.

“I can understand being anxious about wanting to get in there and to be of assistance. I think the best thing I can do is to bring my skills and my experience to bear in situations.”

Why Hogan’s Calls Weren’t Returned

The mayor continued, “To suggest that we should have had the National Guard in Baltimore on Saturday when we were able to get things under control, what would it look like on Sunday to have the National Guard running through our streets when we had virtually nothing [going on]?”

When Miller pressed the mayor as to why she did not return three or four phone calls the governor said he made to her after random rock-throwing by high school students morphed into looting and arson along North Avenue and elsewhere, the mayor said:

“As soon as it did [the protest turn violent], we made the assessment of what resources we needed to have on the street in order to make peace, and that’s when we made the call [to the governor].”

Reluctance to Appear “Over-Militarized”

Rawlings-Blake made it clear that she was worried about over-militarizing the city’s response to the daily protests that started after Freddie Gray died, of severe spinal injuries, following his April 12 encounter with police in West Baltimore.

The mayor stressed that in other parts of the country – she did not specifically cite Ferguson, Mo. – “mistakes” were made when public officials decided “to over-militarize and to bring excessive response to a situation.”

As soon as the situation in Baltimore “turned from what was teenagers to more violence and looting,” she said, “we made that call. We brought the additional tools to the fight.”

Asked if the governor was over-eager to deploy troops in Baltimore, Rawlings-Blake replied, “I’ve been tested. We have been through emergencies in our city before. I’m pleased that through it all we have gotten high marks on how we handled it.

“I appreciate the governor’s support. I’m not going to second-guess what he was thinking. It would be nice to have that same courtesy from him.”

They’re Not Talking

A lifelong Democrat and secretary of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), the mayor has had strained relations with the Republican governor since his surprise victory over former Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown last November. The mayor took the defeat badly and waited two days before congratulating the incoming governor, a courtesy that’s usually executed within hours.

The two politicians were not in direct communication as the Freddie Gray protests started at the Western Police District station on April 18 and escalated to a large downtown demonstration last Saturday.

She said she still isn’t talking daily with the governor, who moved his office to the city yesterday and has made appearances at the Western Police station and other flashpoints of the Freddie Gray protest. (The mayor has also begun to make the rounds to neighborhoods hit by the riots.)

But Rawlings-Blake stressed today that her staff remains in “in 24-hour collaboration” with state officials. “We are in constant, constant conversation and collaboration. State resources are integrated into what we are doing.”

She responded to Hogan’s complaint that she didn’t return his three or four phone calls on Monday by noting that personnel representing the state were in the city’s Emergency Operations Center on Monday.

“The notion that he didn’t get a call back from me directly and that was of some concern, that’s absurd when you have [his] people in the room,” she said.

“I wish I could have said that as soon as he called, I was able to call him back. But if he had an issue that needed immediate attention, [he] had people in the room. Once things settled down and I was able to schedule a time for us to call, I immediately did that.”

National Guards Not Part of Early Strategy

The mayor also downplayed the importance of having the National Guard before Monday when the city was responding to peaceful demonstrations demanding answers to Freddie Gray’s death and the jailing of six officers involved in his fatal arrest. (The officers remain on paid administrative leave. A report on the police department’s investigation of the Gray case is set to be handed over to the state’s attorney’s office on Friday.)

“There’s been a lot of talk of the National Guard as if [they are] the cavalry to save the city,” the mayor said. “They don’t even have arrest powers. We were focusing on making sure that we were bringing people into the city – and we had been bringing in these people for a solid week – from other jurisdictions that had arrest powers that could support us in the work on the street.”

“For days,” she continued, “we had been adding police officers on the street from other jurisdictions. Prince George’s County, Montgomery County, Baltimore County, sending us resources that had the power and authority that we needed to get the job done.

“When the situation changed and we knew we needed people to be in fixed positions, as the National Guard does so we could get more officers on the street, patrolling the situation and bringing peace, then we brought them in.”

She noted in passing what seemed to be her managerial credo: “Every tool isn’t a hammer, and everything you see isn’t a nail. You have to be able to use the tools in the right way at the right time and assess what’s going on.”

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