The Baltimore Police Chief and the Police Chief’s Dilemma

Bass, Caruso differ on crime issues and policing — but not as much as many think

Bass and Caruso differ on crime issues and policing — but not as much as many think

February 25, 2013|By Michael J. DeSantis, The Baltimore Sun

As the debate about police reform rages on in Baltimore, there has been some speculation this week about how the two men who have held the city’s top jobs for the last three years would handle some of the toughest issues facing the police department and its relationship with the residents of the city.

At the center of police reform is the concept that law enforcement officers have a duty to protect and serve the public — not to enforce the law but to enforce orders from the public.

The concept has been debated in the Baltimore City Council for so long that police unions and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) have been lobbying for months to have police officers called upon by the city to enforce the law, according to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

But one man on the city council, D.J. Williams, who on Thursday made his first public statement since taking over as the police chief, sees police officers as the ultimate arbiters of law and order.

“We need a police department that keeps the community safe, and the job is to keep the community safe,” Williams said in a telephone interview Sunday. “When I say keep the community safe I mean the law. If a violent criminal comes to my community and commits a violent crime, the police need to arrest the criminal without question. The question is, did the police do what they’re supposed to do?

“The job of a police officer is to enforce the law, period. Period.”

Another councilman, Marc Elrich, said Williams is “very much in the business of ensuring that, first and foremost, the victims of crime feel safe, and secondly, that the community feels safe.”

Bass and Caruso have spoken in public, but they have seldom talked about their divergent views. There have been numerous differences, however.

Caruso, who has been on the police force since 1980 and has been a top aide to former Mayor Martin O’Malley, said he has never felt police officers have a duty to enforce the law, period.

“I don’t have any doubt [in] the law,” the

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