Two of the major Democratic candidates for Mayor aggressively attacked each other’s records on crime Wednesday a debate on WYPR’s Maryland Morning, while a third tried to stay above the fray.
Former Mayor Sheila Dixon said the crime rate went down when she was mayor before and she can make it happen again by targeting people who use guns.
“All of our policemen from the ground up knew and understood that we were not going to continue with the past practices of zero tolerance,” Dixon said. “We were going to deal with the most violent offenders and that’s part of the plan moving forward.”
But Councilman Nick Mosby called her out on that. He said Dixon, who was city council president at the time, sat back in silence as then Mayor Martin O’Malley pushed zero-tolerance policing, cracking down on minor offenses. Mosby also said cases of police brutality occurred under Dixon’s watch.
He criticized what he called a gag order that keeps secret the names police officers involved in misconduct civil settlements.
“When you looked at it, you saw the same repeated names of officers over and over again,” Mosby said. “And unfortunately that small bunch gives the entire department a very bad name in the communities in which we need to serve.”
But Dixon fired back, saying she did speak out on zero tolerance and that lawsuits and cases of police brutality declined during her administration. She questioned where Mosby has been the past five years he’s been on City Council. Dixon pointed out the riots after the death of Freddie Gray in police custody last year broke out in Mosby’s district.
“Marching around in communities is great but let’s have some results as a result of that marching around,” Dixon said. “And let’s see where you were during these five years when folks couldn’t find you in your district.”
But Mosby called Dixon delusional for trying to pin the death of Freddie Gray and the unrest that followed on him, a one-term councilman.
“That’s a result of failed policy for the past 30 years,” Mosby said. “Ms. Dixon was elected when I was 8 years old, in the third grade. And it’s a result of all those systemic and structural issues that we’ve seen for far too long.”
As for fighting crime, Mosby says he wants a data-driven approach to go after violent repeat offenders.
Businessman David Warnock mostly stayed out of the way of the Dixon-Mosby duel, saying city residents “are tired of the political back and forth, you know, he said she said.”
Warnock said when it comes to public safety, the candidates for agree on the basics: things like body cameras, police out walking the beat, and more officers living in the city. Warnock said Baltimore’s high crime stats are rooted in there being a dearth of jobs and good schools.
“Where kids when they graduate from high school have the tool kit that they need to get the job of their choice so they can make a choice to do something other than to sell drugs or get involved in crime,” Warnock said.
Dixon, Warnock and Mosby were asked to take part in the debate based on their polling numbers. WYPR wanted to have the three leading candidates based on a recent poll by the Baltimore Sun and the University of Baltimore. But State Senator Catherine Pugh, who was tied for first place with Dixon in that poll, canceled yesterday citing her duties in the General Assembly. WYPR then asked Mosby, who came in fourth, to step in.