If Baltimore’s police department seriously wants to take a step in a new direction, why don’t they re-hire former Baltimore PD officer Joe Crystal, who courageously blew the whistle on crooked behavior and civil rights violations by Baltimore cops of prisoners in custody long before the Freddie Gray issue seized the national zeitgeist.
In my conversations with Crystal, the man known as “Min-Vin” to his friends has always displayed both a passion for police work, and for a return his hometown.
Currently living in the Panhandle, Joe fled Maryland due to the culture of corruption Batts allowed to flourish at Baltimore PD and the fear of further law enforcement intimidation.
Not only did Batts personally promise to handle Crystal’s complaint fairly, and fail, but the now former Baltimore Police Commissioner engaged in a level of game playing indicative of a petty tyrant recently – all over awards previously decided for courage in the line of duty to Crystal and four other active officers.
Crystal was set to receive an award for helping four other officers apprehend a gang member suspected of robbing seven local stores.
The arrest took place shortly before Crystal left the force….
Dozens of officers received awards at the ceremony, all of them walking up to the podium to accept their medals or certificates and shaking Batts’ hand for a photo op.
But Crystal and three of the other officers involved in the robbery bust were pulled aside shortly before their awards were to be handed out and told they wouldn’t be going up to the podium due to time constraints.
They were never even called by name. Only one officer involved in the incident was allowed to take the stage, since he was also receiving a Bronze Star. The other four were not acknowledged by the commissioner, instead receiving their commendatory letters after the ceremony. While everyone else had a framed certificate, Crystal and the other snubbed officers got limp blue folders, their letters stapled inside. Though the front of the folder had the commissioner’s seal, the award itself was not signed by Batts.
To review, Joe Crystal’s only crime was reporting a crooked cop, and on behalf of his community should’ve been properly recognized for taking a violent felon off the streets after a string of incidents – along with 4 other current officers who instead got the shaft.
A gang specialist, Crystal sadly recognized the same tribal and territorial behavior in his department telling PINAC Live! earlier this year when police cling to a “blood in, blood out” mentality, they become no different than the gangs they’re hired to police.
Furthermore, Joe said that officers in any department take their cues from the top, and that “when you make a mistake, you say you make a mistake, we’re cops, we’re not perfect.”
Who hasn’t seen a story in these pages or others about police attempting to cover up misdoings and civil rights violations?
A great example of refusing to admit culpability would be Miami Beach PD’s shooting of Raymond Herisse during 2011’s Memorial Day festivities when officers shot at a moving car. Police from multiple jurisdictions then created a firing squad and gunned down Herisse with a hail of small arms fire injuring innocent bystanders, followed illegally seizing witnesses cameras.
Later, Miami Beach PD openly defied court orders to release information to both the victim’s family, and the injured bystanders too. They too replaced their Chief of Police with a highly educated and experienced former NYPD officer and most recently Chief of Aurora, Colorado’s force, Dan Oates.
In a recent discussion I attended with Oates, who took one of the most difficult jobs in policing at a time of crisis, he openly decried the difficulty in firing bad officers, having fired two thus far in 12 months.
Oates was optimistic that both firing would stick in the face of additional due process accorded police in employment hearings.
That’s one major cue from the top in Miami Beach PD that Baltimore’s force has been sadly lacking while Batts was at the helm.
Recently, famed Baltimore District Attorney Marilyn Mosby responded to news that her own mother, who worked in Boston law enforcement had crossed the line, her reaction spoke volumes, “I learned at an early age that everyone makes mistakes, I also learned the importance of taking responsibility for the choice and mistakes we make.”
Batts was involved in a similar incident to Joe Crystal’s honest police report of abuse, during his prior contract with Long Beach’s Police Department, long before being hired to replace the prior police commissioner mid-term and being given a 6 year contract thereafter.
Ultimately, Long Beach taxpayers picked up the tab for Batts’ plate surf and turf violations in the amount $4,100,000 in Lobstergate settlements to officers.
That’s an expensive lobster dinner!
Now, Baltimore taxpayers will be on the hook for an extra $190,000 next year while they pay a new top cop, and Batts’ severance pay – not to mention the numerous lawsuits settled and still pending and yet to come over the Freddie Gray incident.
Crystal said that “the way they handled my situation sent a message to the community: We don’t want these kind officers (who blow the whistle) on the force. That’s why these incidents started to pile up, the ok was given from the top down.”
If Baltimore is willing to spend so much money to hire a chief with a known history of supporting abusers, why don’t they re-hire an officer with a known history of bravery in the face of criminals – no matter the color of shirt lawbreakers wear.