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11 Apr 2000 | Soul Jazz

Baltimore

Baltimore Police Spokesman T.J. Smith Resigns

Baltimore Police Spokesman T.J. Smith Resigns

The spokesman for the Baltimore Police Department has announced he is resigning. T.J. Smith, chief of media relations, announced his resignation on social media.

 

“I’m not going far, but I can’t just type this stuff, I need to go get to work on addressing this stuff,” Smith wrote of the issues in Baltimore.

Before joining the Baltimore Police Department in August 2015, T.J. Smith was the media relations director for the Anne Arundel County Police Department.

 

Read his goodbye letter :

Dear Baltimore, It’s time. Goodbye for now and thank you for letting me be me. To change a city, you have to change the city. I love this town. I get homesick whenever I’m away. And despite its flaws, this city possesses great beauty, is rich in history, and exudes promise. However, the last few years have cast a spotlight on our city’s urban, gritty landscape; from scandals, corruption, murders, riots, and more. Through it all, I walk all over the city and people approach me offering ideas, prayer, and hope. That’s Baltimore, my Baltimore, a deeply resilient town. As I said when I arrived in Baltimore, and I’ll say the same as I leave, “I’m not just a spokesperson, I’m a community advocate.” As I say goodbye, for now, it has truly been my honor and privilege to serve with the men and women of the Baltimore Police Department and the citizens of the city of Baltimore. I would like to thank former Commissioner Kevin Davis, former Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Commissioner Darryl De Sousa, Interim Commissioner Gary Tuggle and Mayor Catherine Pugh for the opportunity to serve as the voice of the Baltimore Police Department. I’d also like to extend my thanks to Chief Tim Altomare and County Executive Steve Schuh for their support as I transitioned from Anne Arundel County to Baltimore; I’m most thankful that they all didn’t try to change me. My style was matter-of-fact, and my goal was to speak to everyone honestly and truthfully in a manner that allowed me to relate to folks from all walks of life. I’ve met so many people along the way, and there are too many to thank. More importantly, I must offer my sincere condolences to all who’ve been affected by our city’s violence. One of my objectives was to bring attention to the issue, to get those responsible for committing crimes in custody, and moreover, speak to those who might be contemplating hurting someone else. I’ve spoken to families who have been deeply affected by the violence; families of Taylor Hayes, Markel Scott, Devin Cook, Michael Mayfield, Marcus Edwards, McKenzie Elliott, Jonathan Tobash, and sadly many, many more. I want to thank Clarence Mitchell IV (C4 Show) and WBAL Radio for giving us a platform for these families on BPD Case Files. And as fate would have it, I too, faced the devastation of a personal loss when my little brother, Dion, was killed on July 2, 2017. Prior to being affected by violence directly, I chose to speak on behalf of everyone’s loved one with the same level of passion and humanity. I want to offer a special thank you to Assistant State’s Attorney Adam Chaundry and Detective Mike Moran for securing a guilty verdict in my brother’s killers case. As I reflect over the years, and in my time here, I fully recognize the problems that exist in Baltimore aren’t simply “post-riot” problems. They are longstanding, systemic problems that require an aggressive strategic plan. In 1996, Baltimore club legends, Diamond K and Big Ria released a song entitled, “Hey You Knuckleheads”. The song pays homage to housing projects, neighborhoods, and well known open-air drug corners. But they are also communities that many of our families grew up in. Sadly, many of these same communities have deteriorated and it’s where we see much of our crime. The artists gave the city a blueprint, through song, of areas throughout the city that have historically and disproportionately been plagued with social ills, guns, violence, and drugs. Here are the opening lyrics: “Hey You Knuckle Heads, Hey You Knuckle Heads, Walking Down the Avenue, A few more streets and we’ll be through, Sandtown, North and P, Park Heights, R and G, Whitelock, CherryHill, North and Long and Dolfield, Murphy Homes, EA, Greenmount, Barclay, Walbrook JCT, Popular Grove, and EV, Flaghouse, LT, 28th, Tivoly, Alameda, Mount Street, Edmonson and Pulaski, Saratoga, Garrison, North and Dukeland, Westport, Cedonia, Parkside, Moravia, Sinclair, Wolfe Street, Milton, Chase and Biddle Street, York Rd, Preston Street, 24th, Bernice street, 21st, 20th, Bethel and Lafayette, North Bend, Catonsville, Warwick and Rosedale” Twenty-two years ago they sang about these neighborhoods. I challenge anyone to go out and observe these same areas 22 years later. They all suffer from the same woes that they were suffering from two decades ago. The only thing that has changed was the implosion of the high-rise housing projects: Murphy Homes, Lexington Terrace (LT), and Flaghouse. It’s sad and unfortunate for the people who have been forced to live in some of the underserved communities for generations. The irony that Sandtown was the first community she mentioned. We have continued to put bandages on the situation instead of offering feasible and sustainable plans to invest in these communities. We can’t expect a law enforcement solution alone to solve these catastrophic, systematic socio-economic failures. Too many children in the communities described above have much easier access to blunts, beers, huggies, chicken boxes, Doritos, sweet tea, soda, and more than they do to a fitness center, a salad, or an apple. We then take these same young people who are in essence, under the influence, and send them into schools expecting them to sit still and learn. It’s a recipe for failure, and it’s targeted to specific geographies that are, you guessed it, plagued with violence. Washington, D.C. and New York City have seen significant and sustainable reductions in murders from the “bloody” 90s to today. Many of the communities that were disproportionally affected by murder were low-income, African-American communities. Many of those communities were built upon a foundation of racism and segregation. The basic needs for sustainability were omitted from them, and years later, we are continuing to pay the price for segregation. When Washington, D.C. and New York City started changing their cities, people stopped dying. In the early 90s, Washington, D.C. peaked at more than 490 murders. By 2012, they recorded 88. The 400 murders from the 90s didn’t move to Northern Virginia or Southern Maryland. The people who were most comfortable committing those murders in their underserved communities now found themselves in uncomfortable environments where it was no longer easy to murder, run, and hide. The same goes for New York City; from more than 2000 murders in the 90s to less than 300 in 2017. The 1700 plus people who are no longer killed in New York aren’t getting killed elsewhere. We must be brave, willing, creative, and unapologetic to change our city. Murderers, gang members, drug dealers, and the like are too comfortable; the patterns must be disrupted to remove their level of security. Our investment must be unbalanced. There must be aggressive multi-faceted plans in place for communities to succeed. We can’t just simply pay a family off for lead-paint poisoning. Where is the mandatory financial literacy and treatment for the person who was failed by the system? Simply issuing them a check and placing them right back into the dysfunctional environment in which they have become comfortable is only perpetuating the problem. Let’s focus on our most impoverished communities and work to transform them. But we can’t transform them by simply flooding money and programs in with no oversight and accountability. The investment should include a significant focus on schools and education, community beautification projects, the demolition of dilapidated housing, reinvestment in affordable housing with first right of refusal to those who currently reside in the community and in good standing, green space, accessibility to public transportation, and accessibility to fresh foods. While capitalism is the American way, we must limit the amount of unhealthy options in impoverished communities. Imagine a community that has better access to a library, fitness center, community center, grocery store, and good schools compared to one in which every other home is boarded up, trash is on the streets, and the four corners of the intersection consist of a phone store, carry-out, liquor store, and a mini-mart that also sells drug baggies and acts as a safe haven for drug dealers. It’s not impossible to do, but it requires a focused investment, courage, oversight, and follow-up. We must get real about holding the right people accountable; they are violent repeat offenders. The story is a broken record. The same people are responsible for the vast amount of violent crimes. What is also synonymous in most cases is the fact that they received multiple suspended sentences, violated probation, and have consistently shown a propensity towards violence. Some people are just simply bad people and need to be held accountable for their actions. Let’s really address mental health. Why are we still whispering about it? Why do our troops suffer from PTSD? They suffer from PTSD because of the shock and the trauma that they see on the battlefield. It is not normal to see someone get killed. Our community is suffering to a point that we have accepted it and normalized it. But yet, there has never been a cohesive plan to address this level of trauma our children and adults are witnessing on nearly a daily basis. We should not allow ourselves to be numb to what has historically occurred in our city. We’ve witnessed, recently, schools unable to open at all or for part of the day because they were either too cold or too hot. Oddly enough, this problem was limited to Baltimore City schools and a handful of Baltimore County schools. This problem isn’t new. About 25 years ago when I was a student at Poly, we had a walkout because we were unable to wear shorts and t-shirts inside of a school that had no air-conditioning. This issue is being highlighted now, but it is certainly not a new phenomenon. When I speak of disproportionate investments, this is what I am speaking of. What results do we expect from our kids who are placed in environments with a clear message: “We don’t care about you.” This can and will be fixed. There has been a systematic failure in policing in Baltimore over many years. Some real hardcore criminals who infiltrated this police department and have left a lifetime of scars. Some of them committed acts of organized crime that we all thought David Simon was exaggerating in the series, The Wire. They still represent a minority of officers. It is difficult to say, “a few bad apples”, because if this situation were an apple tree, we would be forced to quarantine it, as it seems a little more widespread. I got to know the hearts of the vast majority of officers who want nothing more than to protect this city and honorably serve the citizens of Baltimore. I saw the faces of defeat when they heard about another one of their co-workers being indicted for criminal activity. I saw the frustration up close and personal. I asked a couple of officers this question, “Why do you even stay here?”. The answer was always quick, simple, and even offensive, “Because I love it and care deeply about this city”. It was obvious that this was straight from the heart. Policing, in general, must build upon that and tap into the hearts of those who want to serve. There are countless examples of such in the Baltimore police department. But the agency has work to do. The hardworking men and women of the Baltimore police department need your support so that they can continue to work hard to get those who want to harm us off of the streets. It’s also equally important to weed out those who want to tarnish the badge and the image of policing. Policing, in general, must address those officers who are too cowardly or lack proper empathy or training to deal with situations where people are in trauma or distress. Those who fit into that category should vacate their positions immediately. This profession has no margin for error because people’s freedom and life depend on it. We have a moral obligation to get better and we must. Finally, (because I can go on for days) we must invest in real oversight and a real network of accountability for offenders re-entering society. As we look at prison reform, let’s work to have prisoners “graduate” from prison as opposed to simply doing their time. Right now, we send them in and they come out even better trained at being a criminal than when they went in. The current system is literally creating a “repeat violent offender”. If they don’t become “proficient” in their behavior, maybe they shouldn’t be back on the streets. Thanks to my team in the Media Relations Section and all of the fine men and women of the Baltimore police department who welcomed me and treated me like family. To change a city, we must change the city. Thanks for reading. Thanks for having me. I’m not going far, but I can’t just type this stuff, I need to go get to work on addressing this stuff. What’s next you ask? Hmmm, consulting, teaching, media stuff, and maybe, just maybe a book and politics! One way or another, I’m available to speak and work with you! I’m excited to see what God has in store for me!! I’m social, so feel free to stay connected on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Just search @TJSmithMedia. And my website, www.TJSmithMedia.com. You can also read a little more of my story here in The Atlantic magazine. Thank you all, God bless you, be safe, and I’ll see you soon around #mybmore! One Love, One Baltimore. Peace. T.J.

happy wheels

Bilal Ali

October 11th, 2018

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