Former Baltimore Deputy Police Commissioner: ‘You Need Teamwork for the Win’

By Stephen Owsinski

In a recent Fox News TV interview with Anthony Barksdale, the former Baltimore deputy police commissioner, analysis of Baltimore’s escalating homicide rate was the focal point. More precisely, it is what Baltimore street cops need to do about it. More applicably, it is who is running the Baltimore Police Department, along with the district attorney who is ostensibly another among other liberal-leaning elected officials turning the cheek to chaos and anarchy. The anti-police upper echelon points its typical I’m-not-responsible finger: the street cops are to blame for not doing their job. Seems some folks were/are scholarly with Scapegoat 101.

When discussing his perspective regarding the maelstrom in which Baltimore cops find themselves, Mr. Barksdale’s message is emphatic and highly implicit, saying, “You need that teamwork for the win.” It’s not so much as what he says that is earthshattering —everyone knows teamwork is a ubiquitously great concept commonly resulting in victories— it is that he is compelled to say it…emphasizing a disconnect among rank and file and police administration.

And isn’t that a burgeoning thing nowadays, where some cities and counties are employing top cops not acting like cops at all but more like prophetic ideologues doing the bidding of political figures…at the expense of rank and file law enforcement officers and the citizenry they swore to protect and serve. A crystal-clear correlation is also magnified: some district attorneys are more like criminal defense lawyers than prosecutors representing victims. The street cops pounding the beat are effectively short-changed by these sorts and, shamefully, the victims are re-victimized. So much for the mantra We’re on the same team!

Nevertheless, the beat cops go out and expend every effort to do the job. Never mind the deficit in resources; they don the uniform and gear and head toward the battle zone. Notwithstanding wayward “leadership,” they show up and try to fix huge problems. But for how long can this last? Simply crossing fingers and hoping for the best without at least implementing better measures doesn’t cut it.

The impetus for the Fox News interview stemmed from Baltimore’s latest deadly weekend, culminating in eight homicides over the 72-hour period. In any city, that is a mega boost in a super-bad way.

Presently, Baltimore police chalked 42 homicides. And we are six weeks into 2020. If one were to scrutinize numbers and mine probabilities, Baltimore is in for a dreary year as it relates to violence and death tolls. Not a precedent, either; Baltimore had one murder every day of the year in 2017. There is much to be said when the city newspaper, The Baltimore Sun, sets up its own homicide counter page with public access and a real-time chronicle.

Perhaps not surprisingly, scrutiny of cause and effect regarding homicide rates tapped into the common denominator between locales with a high saturation of liquor stores and increased murder rates. Recent reviews looked at Baltimore in particular, noting, “There is an ongoing violence epidemic in Baltimore, with recent years breaking records for number of homicides. This study suggests that there is potential to prevent violent crimes by reducing alcohol outlet density in Baltimore City.”

Well, cops are not in charge of business permitting and zoning; that falls to other city departments. And police agencies anywhere ought to be unified to some degree with what other local government departments can do to facilitate change, you know…like teamwork. For example, NYPD ordinarily elicits help from city departments, such as a recent “needle cleanup” conducted by the NYC Sanitation Department.

Did you know that NYC has a Sanitation Police force? These cops walk the beat and address merchants’ and/or residential dwellings’ code violations (summonses with fines and legal right to go before an administrative judge, a court in which I worked many moons ago). Teamwork comes into play when these street cops come upon illegal dumping, summoning city sanitation crews to remove debris so citizens have a better quality of life via elimination of eyesores. Teamwork for the win!

Infinitely, city police executives (and the electorate with whom they team-up) can do whatever it takes to outfit their cops and support vigorous efforts to eradicate whatever scourges have infiltrated the jurisdiction. All LEOs swear the exact same oath, so why does a traditional pact with public safety tenets get sidelined in favor of ideologies of others, others who harbor misguided sentiments and are so willing to place cops in harm’s way?

As a former top cop in Baltimore, what Mr. Barksdale is harping on is good old-fashioned police work, where beat cops in adequate numbers are equipped appropriately and authentically supported by elected officials. Where cops go on duty and hit the pavement hard. Where arrests are subject to the complete process of the criminal justice system. Where prosecutors prosecute. Where judges judge. Where juries decide fate. Where the penal institutions intake and maintain wrongdoers convicted in a court of law. Where people are held…responsible for their actions, a proverbial two-way street.

What Mr. Barksdale is essentially referring to is broken windows theory: police paying acute attention with prompt enforcement of the tiniest of infractions logically repels more grotesque crimes from taking root and festering. It transcends community-oriented policing whereby cops and citizens forge partnerships to quash crime and criminal opportunities pre-emptively. Neighborhood Crime Watch is a related concept. In all anti-crime modalities is the staple ingredient: Teamwork…for the win!

The gatekeepers are useless if the electorate (and those who kowtow) mandates the gate must be left alone, as is the case with reform laws in New York, California and other jurisdictions.

It makes sense for Barksdale to echo the tried and true sentiments behind his message: teamwork. Going out on the streets to ensure safety and security of everyone is not necessarily a viable game-plan unless supported by strength in numbers. Surely, it can not be done by one cop. Certainly, no matter how many cops are involved…it is doomed to fail if the electorate is more enthused by its coddling business, a business they have no business being in.

What citizens in the United States do need (deserve) is community policing and enforcement of laws accorded by and underscored in the U.S. Constitution.  America’s police are either going to fight crime… or merely photograph the stains it leaves behind. The former are saviors; the latter are records of failures not of their own choosing. The latter is best attributed to impotence borne of political agendas.

Besides the liquor store theory cited above, another construct segueing to massive destruct is the illegal immigration dilemma fueled by zany sanctuary city jurisdictions/policies. Baltimore is among the list of sanctuary cities across our beloved nation. The harboring of violent people from afar decries betrayal of any elected official’s oath. The police executives who stand by this brand of politician are inarguably complicit for denying their cops’ upholding constitutional principles and/or cooperating with federal immigration agents trying to do what our laws stipulate.

On February 11, 2020, United States Attorney General Bill Barr took to the podium to announce broad and definitive federal measures to eradicate the sabotage and subterfuge brought about by sanctuary concepts and the governments who unconstitutionally prohibit immigration enforcement protocols. Namely, ICE is left to fend for themselves (on our behalf) while illegal-alien fugitives are safely sheltered from the reach of our nation’s laws/rules and all those who swore to enforce them.

“Teamwork for the win” is only possible with everyone doing their part for the good of all, and no personal/political agendas ought to be appeased whatsoever. This implies voters play a vital role in the mix of things. To that end we can only hope the majority choose the correct candidates for the betterment of respective jurisdictions, ones who do not oppose the police and enforcement of laws. Contrarians only deliver smoke screens (propaganda) and a way of life which contradicts Americans’ rights to thrive freely and peacefully.

Coincidentally enough, my penchant for irony was fulfilled while writing this particular piece on Baltimore PD woes. It seems that in the spirit of teamwork, the Fraternal Order of Police #3 representing Baltimore’s cadre of cops came across a dubious email for consideration, and it’s not pretty. Reports indicate that Baltimore’s police chief (and his administration) may be trying to censure rank and file cops during police training drills, essentially threatening them that anything they say or do is being audio/video recorded…and will be used against them if command staff deems it necessary. Seems traditional Us v. Them credo ordinarily underscoring police versus bad guys may also be applicable to Baltimore cops and their command staff experiencing a divide. “A house divided against itself will not stand,” said Abraham Lincoln.

While this article was being composed, two Baltimore law enforcement officers were shot while serving a felony warrant. The statements from Baltimore’s mayor, city council president, county executive, and State Attorney Marilyn Mosby (yes, the overzealous one) can be read at the end of the WBAL TV report.

A brief foray into Baltimore’s current police commissioner denotes Michael Harrison as the former police superintendent overseeing the oft-cited embattled New Orleans Police Department (NOPD). Speaking of embattled police executives, as I tap the keyboard to give you this storyline, former Baltimore police Commissioner Darryl De Sousa was released from federal prison after serving time for a tax evasion conviction; he is now fulfilling the remainder of his sentence on “community supervision.” (Hard to implement teamwork when the stability expected of the top cop is rife with turnover; BPD has seen over six police commissioners come and go in as many years, as outlined by The New York Times.

Commissioner Harrison departed the NOPD under one of those federal consent decrees often invited and/or agreed to by politicians, the same brand of politicians who have no pertinence and direct experience in law enforcement. Not sure why he departed, but he wound up at the helm of Baltimore’s police force, another agency operating under a federal consent decree.

As noteworthy comment found on Facebook seems to echo many others just like it. It reads: “That’s very nice they have a new [police academy] facility. But it is the City Leaders that are the problem. From the bottom to the top!!! Start getting rid of them and then Baltimore might, just might start seeing a difference. The new Commissioner gets what he wants whether it is good for the City or not. Guess that’s why he is getting the BIG BUCKS!!!!” That message and its tone sounds like it is written by a Baltimorean, one who is outside looking in and/or inside looking out. As mentioned, there are many comments just like it on a Facebook thread announcing the unveiling of the long-overdue Baltimore Police Academy.

Can Baltimore police elements meld well together in order to regain and ensure law and order? Like any organization, the answer typically rests at the top. As Thin Blue Line of Leadership (TBLL) cited on their website: “Leadership is not a license to do less; it’s a responsibility to do more. The results aren’t easily measured, but do it anyway.”

Inc.com writer Dave Kerpen wrote about teamwork and coined leadership this way: “A successful leader is one who can spur his or her team members to work well together toward a common vision and goals.”

Endemically, great teamwork is not necessarily easy to meld together. Like all humans in any endeavor requiring cohesion, it often takes time for components to click. Cops are no exception. Also among our species working in tandem, it takes an admired and effective leader with unshakable integrity to implement a common initiative and see that all resources are accessible, without impediments (elected officials) throwing obstacles in the way.

Speaking of elected officials, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan candidly spoke about the wrinkles in Baltimore, saying, “We’ve got to get to the bottom of this. Having the lack of leadership in the city doesn’t help the situation at all.” He publicized those words in April 2019.

Teamwork is defined as “work done by several associates with each doing a part but all subordinating personal prominence to the efficiency of the whole,” per Merriam-Webster.

Punctuating our story is another concise credo offered by police leadership gurus at TBLL: “Inspired leaders inspire cops, improve policing, serve communities better. It’s just that simple!” Giving credit where it is ostensibly due, BPD Commissioner spoke about the new police training academy, saying, “I would hope that this new facility sends a message that we are raising the standard and raising the bar, and it is this level of excellence that we want all of our facilities to look like.” The prior BPD police academy was a run-down dwelling without WiFi or potable water or A/C or heat. Imagine trying to assemble/train as a team under conditions which third-world countries combat for survival.

Commissioner Harrison claimed, “We want to send a message that we care about the men and women of this department, that we care about their well-being, we care about the working conditions, and we care about their morale as well as their professional development through training. This is a promise that we made and now we’re delivering on that promise.” Promises made, promises kept? We shall see.

A new training facility is marvelous, but it is just special housing for a special demographic where the hope is that all can be pillared as one.  SWAT teams typically exemplify this, so there is an example in Baltimore.

And as former deputy police commish Anthony Barksdale stated, “You need teamwork for the win!

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