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Convicted and suspected dirty cops, hundreds of tainted cases and hundreds of police officers with tarnished reputations signal trouble for Baltimore crime fighting and efforts to obtain justice

NNPA NEWSWIRE — Many learned about the Baltimore City Police through the case of Freddie Gray, who died in April 2015 following his arrest after running away from cops patrolling his neighborhood. Cell phone video of his arrest show an obviously injured Gray being dragged between two bicycle cops to a paddy wagon. Officers handcuffed and shackled the young Black man but left him unbuckled in the back of a police van. He suffered fatal injuries from an almost severed spine.

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Marilyn Mosby, Baltimore City State's Attorney at the Baltimore Women's March Gathering Rally at War Memorial Plaza at 101 North Gay Street in Baltimore MD. Photo: Elvert Barnes Protest Photography/Wikimedia Commons)

By Nisa Islam Muhammad, Staff Writer, The Final Call
@nisaislam

Crooked cops are what Baltimore States Attorney Marilyn Mosby has come fact-to-face with. She recently asked courts to throw out nearly 800 criminal cases handled by 25 city police officers, saying she had reason to distrust more than a dozen cops in addition to the eight convicted in the infamous Gun Trace Task Force scandal that rocked the city police department.

Then the states attorney said her office has “hundreds” of police officers whose reputations are suspect, and a list of names was given to the police department. The information came to light during a forum about policing. “Video clips of her remarks spread online and captured the attention of defense lawyers in Baltimore. According to the states attorney, her office ‘created an internal sort of notification system. We notify the police department whenever there is a sustained allegation of credibility issues or even an allegation that isn’t sustained. So, we will summarize whatever the issue may be, and then we provide that list to the police department for them to determine what they’re going to do with their employee. … There are hundreds of officers on that list,’” she said, according to a Baltimore Sun report Oct. 18.

She hasn’t gone into further detail, nor responded to requests from defense lawyers for access to the names of officers on the list.

There were 183 officers flagged by Ms. Mosby’s office, Matt Jablow, a police spokesman told the Sun. “‘We are aware of the list and the officers who are on it,’ Jablow wrote in an email. ‘Some of the issues involve current Internal Affairs investigations that could result in discipline, though there are many officers who are on the list despite allegations of wrongdoing that were not sustained,’” according to the Sun.

“Prosecutors are held to an ethical standard of pursuing justice over convictions, and when you have sworn police officers involved in egregious and long-standing criminal activity, such as planting guns and drugs, stealing drugs and money, selling drugs, making illegal arrests and bringing false charges, our legal and ethical obligation in the pursuit of justice leaves us no other recourse but to ‘right the wrongs’ of unjust convictions associated with corrupt police officers. Police corruption is a hindrance to public safety, puts the lives of hard-working and dedicated officers at risk, and limits our ability as prosecutors to deliver justice on behalf of the citizens of Baltimore,” Ms. Mosby said in early October.

Many learned about the Baltimore City Police through the case of Freddie Gray, who died in April 2015 following his arrest after running away from cops patrolling his neighborhood. Cell phone video of his arrest show an obviously injured Gray being dragged between two bicycle cops to a paddy wagon. Officers handcuffed and shackled the young Black man but left him unbuckled in the back of a police van. He suffered fatal injuries from an almost severed spine.

City officials were slow in releasing details of the circumstances surrounding his death, but many believe Mr. Gray’s injuries came after he was given a “rough ride” where those in police custody are left unrestrained and violently tossed around in a fast-moving police van.

Anger and riots exploded in the city following his death and how he was handled by police made national news. No officer was convicted of wrongdoing in connection with his demise.

The U.S. Justice Department found in 2016 that the Baltimore City Police Department “engages in a pattern and practice that violates the U.S. Constitution,” and the “BPD disproportionately stops, searches, and arrests African Americans in violation of Title VI and the Safe Streets Act, and this disparate impact, along with evidence suggesting intentional discrimination against African Americans, exacerbates community distrust of the police.”

Abdul Salaam was driving home with his son when he was pulled over by the Baltimore City Police in 2013. In front of his son strapped in his car seat and a crowd of 30 neighbors, officers snatched him out of the car, he stated.

“They terrorized and beat me badly,” Mr. Salaam told The Final Call. “They went through my van, claimed to be looking for guns and drugs. These were plainclothes officers in unmarked cars. They were drug and gun enforcement officers. They said they pulled me over for a seat belt violation. As they got out of their cars, they had guns drawn. That’s not the routine approach for a traffic violation,” he continued.

“They pulled me out, slammed me down, handcuffed me, picked me up, hogtied me, gave me the ‘Baltimore knee drop’ in the back of my neck area while I was hogtied and carted me off to the hospital and then central booking.  This is their common pattern and practice, not what they do when they stop you for a seat belt violation. It was not so commonly known back then.”

Mr. Salaam spent two nights in jail and upon his release immediately found a lawyer to file suit against the Baltimore Police Department.

Many of Baltimore’s Black residents look at the police with distrust and the problems have continued.

“It’s unfortunate that she has to take this step,” said Farajii Muhammad about Atty. Mosby. He is host of Morgan State University’s WEAA Radio Daily Show, “For The Culture.” “You want to make sure that you have clean, good cases but considering the impact the Gun Trace Task Force made on the department, a lot of those cases forced her to take this route,” he explained.

The Gun Trace Task Force was a police street unit that was involved in robbery, drug selling, stealing police overtime, planting evidence and other wrongdoing. According to the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office, the tainted cases involve additional officers convicted in a different federal case, six implicated in Gun Trace Task Force testimony, two in unrelated other cases and seven officers who remain unidentified.

“You don’t want to continue to perpetuate wrongful actions and unfortunately that happens a lot in Baltimore City. It’s a step that many people don’t want to take but at the end of the day I think it’s the right step and a necessary step to rectify the wrongs for the people who were just at the wrong place at the wrong time. It may be necessary,” said Mr. Muhammad.

“The Gun Trace Task Force was a very reckless unit. They were reckless for many, many years. It will be important that we look at that. The states attorney of Baltimore realizes that we are still grappling with what happened to Freddie Gray, now we’re grappling with the Gun Trace Task Force.”

Mr. Salaam took his case to court to fight the crooked cops that illegally stopped, searched and beat him.

“It cost $10,000 just to get a good lawyer. Two weeks after my situation another young man died at the hands of the police, Tyrone West. I met that family three days later. They explained what happened to him was the same thing that happened to me. When I went to court, I felt these were the same cops that were involved with Tyrone West.  My lawyer investigated and found that the officers were the same,” said Mr. Salaam.

“Since that time, we have been very prominent in the city bringing to light the Baltimore Police Department’s wicked ways, as well as their pattern and practice of terrorizing communities. My criminal charges were dropped, I filed a civil suit against the Baltimore Police Department and won.”

Even after the Justice Department’s report that condemned the police department for racism, unreasonable force, violating the rights of Baltimore residents by using force or otherwise retaliating against individuals exercising constitutionally protected activity, such as public speech and filming police activity, excessive force against individuals with mental health disabilities or experiencing a crisis, many are still waiting for major improvements.

To counter the growing divide between the community and the police, the state created Maryland’s Commission to Restore Trust in Policing in December 2018, and Governor Larry Hogan signed the bill into law giving the commission subpoena power for investigations. Their first report is expected in December 2019.

“It’s going to take us to stop and look back and see how far does this corruption go? In this case the corruption goes far. Even though those members of the task force have been convicted, the impact of their misdeeds are still being revealed,” said Mr. Muhammad.

The city also faces lawsuits from those who say they were victimized by corrupt cops. It was not immediately clear if anyone connected with the tainted cases is still incarcerated.

(Final Call staff contributed to this report.)

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Parents Raise the Alarm About Violence in Schools, Say Their Votes Depends on Improvement

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “Parents have very legitimate concerns about violence in schools, increased bullying, and a lack of mental health resources,” Keri Rodrigues, co-founder, and President of the National Parents Union, said in a statement.

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NNPA NEWSWIRE — “Parents have very legitimate concerns about violence in schools, increased bullying, and a lack of mental health resources,” Keri Rodrigues, co-founder, and President of the National Parents Union, said in a statement.
About 52 percent said student mental health after coping with the pandemic is a significant issue, as well.

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

A new poll revealed that parents continue to express “legitimate concerns” about violence in schools, increased bullying, and a lack of mental health resources.

Alarmingly, the poll released by the National Parents Union found that 59 percent of parents are very or extremely concerned about how schools are teaching race and diversity.

“Many Black parents are worried that schools are being harsher on students of color compared to white students,” researchers noted in the poll.

The National Parents Union counts as a network of parent organizations and grassroots activists committed to improving the quality of life for children and families in the United States.

Conducted from November 19 to November 23, the survey included 1,233 parents who also count as registered voters.

Researchers found that 84 percent of parents are concerned about how schools address the threat of violence, and 59 percent identified increased bullying or violence in school as a significant issue.

About 52 percent said student mental health after coping with the pandemic is a significant issue, as well.

“Parents have very legitimate concerns about violence in schools, increased bullying, and a lack of mental health resources,” Keri Rodrigues, co-founder, and President of the National Parents Union, said in a statement.

“Now, it is incumbent on schools to do something about these issues, especially given the federal funds available. It’s not rocket science. Rather than repaint a football field, first, make sure that there are enough counselors to help students cope with mental health issues,” Rodrigues asserted.

The poll also asked the parents who responded that they were concerned about the threat of violence, which worries them the most.

The top three most pressing concerns remain:

  • 44 percent: schools not having enough counselors, psychologists, or social workers to work with students
  • 42 percent: schools not having resources to keep weapons out of schools
  • 39 percent: schools not having school resource officers or police accessible on campus
  • 59 percent of parents are extremely or very concerned about how schools are teaching about race and diversity; Among Black parents, 69 percent share this sentiment, which drops slightly to 67 percent among Hispanic parents.

Of the overall number of parents who are at least somewhat concerned (79 percent):

  • 48 percent say what concerns them the most is schools are not teaching accurate information about the issue of race.
  • 42 percent are most concerned about schools pushing a progressive agenda onto students
  • 56 percent of GOP parents who are concerned say this is their top concern
  • 32 percent are most concerned that schools aren’t focused on the issue enough
  • 46 percent of Black parents who are concerned say this is their top concern
  • 78 percent of parents are concerned about how schools are handling disciplinary issues
  • Nearly half (46 percent) of Black parents who said they are concerned about how schools are handling disciplinary issues are worried that schools are harsher on students of color compared to white students
  • 38 percent of parents trust Democrats to do a better job of handling education; 31 percent trust Republicans; 14 percent trust both equally; 11 percent trust neither

Among parents who identify as Independents, 28 percent trust Republicans and 20 percent trust Democrats.

“These findings underscore the importance of the very thing we have been imploring school leaders across the country to do – listen to the parents in your community,” Rodrigues stated.

“It also reinforces the need for those running for office to take the concerns of parents very seriously or risk losing elections.”

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COMMENTARY: Telling Our Family Stories Keeps Black History Alive

We grew up hearing family stories about life in the Carolinas from our parents and grandparents. My sister, Gwen Fortune-Blakely, has written her first children’s book, Rex and the Band, inspired by one of our favorite stories our grandma used to tell about my dad, Dr. Rex Fortune, who is now a retired public school superintendent.

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Dr. Margaret Fortune, Fortune School, University of Southern California (USC), football, USC marching band, marching bands, drumline, public charter school, Rex and Margaret Fortune Early College High School, family stories, life in the Carolinas, parents, grandparents, Gwen Fortune-Blakely, children’s book, Rex and the Band, grandma, Dr. Rex Fortune, retired public school superintendent, little Rex, spirited young boy, high-energy marching band, North Carolina A&T football games, sister’s beautifully illustrated book, Telling our family stories, African Americans, history, Griots, storytellers, grandparents, ancestors, passed on, Black press, clearinghouse, many stories, Black community, Ebony Jr., elementary school student, high school, Sacramento Observer newspaper, Cocoa Kids Books, engaging, authentic, uplifting, inspiring
Dr. Margaret Fortune is the president/CEO of Fortune School, a system of nine, K-12 public charter schools with over 2,300 students focused on closing the Black achievement gap by preparing students for college.

Let’s Talk Black Education

By Dr. Margaret Fortune, President/CEO Fortune School

When we were kids, my dad would take us to football games at the University of Southern California (USC). I didn’t care much for football, but I loved it when we’d stay after the game to hear the USC marching band play. His love for marching bands is why we have a drumline at the public charter school I founded and named after my parents — Rex and Margaret Fortune Early College High School.

We grew up hearing family stories about life in the Carolinas from our parents and grandparents. My sister, Gwen Fortune-Blakely, has written her first children’s book, Rex and the Band, inspired by one of ourfavorite stories our grandma used to tell about my dad, Dr. Rex Fortune, who is now a retired public school superintendent.

As the story goes, one day back in 1947, my grandma sent little Rex to the corner store to get some eggs so she could bake a cake. My dad bought the eggs and put them in his pockets. On the walk home, he encountered a marching band high-steppin’ down the dusty road to his mother’s house. Little Rex got so excited that he followed the band, beating on his legs like drums all the way home and, yes, breaking all the eggs.

“Rex and the Band” explores a day in the life of Rex, a spirited young boy who dreams of one day playing in a high-energy marching band like the ones he enjoys watching with his father during North Carolina A&T football games.

Reading my sister’s beautifully illustrated book, I cried tears of joy. Telling our family stories is such an important way for African Americans to keep our history alive. Griots, or storytellers, are the reason why we know the truths that we do know about our family history and ancestors.

I believe all of us can think back to when our grandparents would tell us stories about our ancestors who may have passed on before we were born. It was their way of making sure our stories were not only told but preserved.

The Black press has been the clearinghouse for many stories that have impacted the Black community over time. My sister published her first poem in Ebony Jr. as an elementary school student and then in high school she interned at the Sacramento Observer newspaper.

Gwen founded Cocoa Kids Books to publish books like “Rex and the Band” that encourage Black children to dream, aspire for more, and soar because they see themselves reflected in stories that are engaging, authentic, uplifting, and inspiring. I’m so proud of my big sis! You can buy Gwen’s book at https://store.bookbaby.com/book/rex-and-the-band.

Dr. Margaret Fortune is the president/CEO of Fortune School, a system of nine, K-12 public charter schools with over 2,300 students focused on closing the Black achievement gap by preparing students for college.

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American Cancer Society and Four Historically Black Colleges and Universities Announce Groundbreaking Diversity in Cancer Research Program to Improve Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

The awards provided through the DICR program are unique in cancer research. They provide a large amount of salary support for the four colleges to select clinical faculty who need more dedicated time for their cancer research and scholarly activities. They also fund other student and postdoctoral programs and underpin the awards with career development funds and mentorship by established American Cancer Society Professors.

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These grants are designed to build capacity and enhance the competitiveness of faculty at MSIs when applying for nationally competitive grant support and aid in faculty development and retention. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)

The American Cancer Society (ACS), along with four historically black medical schools including Charles Drew Medical School, Howard University, Meharry Medical College, and Morehouse School of Medicine, today announced a groundbreaking Diversity in Cancer Research (DICR) Program to help improve diversity, equity, and inclusion in the cancer research field.

The inaugural initiatives of the overarching program include DICR Institutional Development Grants. The four HBCUs have received DICR grants in a pilot program for 2021-2022.

The awards provided through the DICR program are unique in cancer research.

They provide a large amount of salary support for the four colleges to select clinical faculty who need more dedicated time for their cancer research and scholarly activities.

They also fund other student and postdoctoral programs and underpin the awards with career development funds and mentorship by established American Cancer Society Professors.

The grants will build sustainability for both clinical and scientific cancer-focused careers, launching or sustaining the careers of 104 individuals by 2025.

The impactful program will create a more inclusive research environment to address health disparities more effectively and could lead to targeted recruitment efforts focused on bringing people of color into clinical research protocols.

Establishing a research community that is made up of a diverse group of people is vital to ensuring scientific excellence.

“The American Cancer Society is committed to launching the brightest minds into cancer research and to reducing health disparities,” said Dr. William Cance, American Cancer Society Chief Medical and Scientific Officer.

“To accomplish this, we believe it is essential to invest in the minority workforce and their dedicated efforts to solve disparities and establish equity in cancer care.”

“There are many reasons the Black community continues to experience disparities in cancer care outcomes. But one of the most critical factors behind the imbalance, and one of the most promising paths to closing the gap, is diversity in cancer care research. We must improve diversity and representation in our laboratories if we expect different outcomes in our hospitals,” said Dr. Wayne A. I. Frederick, president of Howard University.

“As a cancer surgeon and as the president of an HBCU, I believe the Diversity in Cancer Research Program will prove to be pivotal in altering the field of cancer care research and improving cancer care outcomes for Black Americans. I am deeply appreciative of the American Cancer Society’s efforts behind this initiative.”

Data show that African Americans and Black people, Hispanics and Latinos, indigenous people and native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders are underrepresented in grant funding.

Fewer than 2% of applicants for the National Institute of Health’s principal grant program come from Black/African Americans, and fewer than 4% from Hispanic/Latino populations.

“We are incredibly excited about this new program with the American Cancer Society,” said Dr. James E.K. Hildreth, Ph.D., MD, President and CEO of Meharry Medical College.

“There is a significant imbalance in the representation of minority populations in clinical research which has led to poorer outcomes for specific racial and ethnic minority groups. To eradicate the varying health disparities that affect these populations, we must prioritize diversifying clinical trials and those who conduct trials to ensure treatment is safe and effective.”

This is a fantastic step to ensuring minority populations receive effective treatment and provides great opportunities for our students and faculty to engage in cancer research,” Dr. Hildreth stated.

“The development of diverse, highly competitive, and independent research faculty has been a goal at CDU since its inception 55 years ago,” shared Dr. David M. Carlisle, President and CEO of Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, located in South Los Angeles.

“This generous grant from the American Cancer Society will directly support a range of programs towards that goal, including the Center to Eliminate Cancer Health Disparities as well as our Clinical Research and Career Development Program, which provides training and mentoring in health disparities and community-partnered participatory research to minority scholars and junior faculty at CDU. This funding will undeniably help CDU in forming a solid foundation in social justice for future cancer research leaders.”

With the DICR program, ACS has committed to a $12 million investment to support four HBCU medical schools with DICR institutional development grants to fund a four-year program that aims to increase the pool of minority cancer researchers by identifying talented students and faculty from HBCUs.

This program will inform efforts to develop a national program to boost cancer research and career development at minority-serving institutions (MSIs).

These grants are designed to build capacity and enhance the competitiveness of faculty at MSIs when applying for nationally competitive grant support and aid in faculty development and retention.

“Here in Georgia, cancer health disparities exist by age, gender, race, income, education, and access to care, among other factors, with Georgia residents in rural communities experiencing worse cancer health outcomes than their urban counterparts,” said Valerie Montgomery Rice, MD, president and CEO at Morehouse School of Medicine.

“The DICR program will be a much-needed and welcome contribution to our work at the Morehouse School of Medicine Cancer Health Equity Institute, forever changing the field of cancer research. The program will not only ensure diversity and inclusion in research, but address health disparities in diverse communities, and assist in our mission in leading the creation and advancement of health equity.”

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