Up until now, no matter how much material I’ve had on a given topic, I’ve worked hard to trim it down to one or two columns. Not this time. There’s just too much story here, and each new layer has needed the previous ones in order to properly unfold.
In part one (https://one-baltimore.org/2020/01/06/one-baltimore-31-the-raid-part-1/), my anonymous interviewee explained how she went to BPD about someone on her block selling hard drugs and possibly running guns, only to find herself targeted by the police. In part two (https://one-baltimore.org/2020/01/13/one-baltimore-32-the-raid-part-2/), we watched the raid on her home play out, the cops threatening her and her family with guns, smashing up the place, and trying to turn her husband against her son. In part three (https://one-baltimore.org/2020/01/20/one-baltimore-33-the-raid-part-three/), amidst ongoing harassment, she went to Internal Affairs and the State’s Attorney, but found no help.
This week, we wrap things up as Anon and her family accept reimbursement for their expenses and try to move on. Doing so won’t cost much — just their voices.
Abby: So I guess at some point, you use your lawyer, yeah?
Anon: Well yeah, she and her partner were trying to get them [the officers involved in the raid] to send them information, trying to get them to give depositions, and Internal Affairs as well was supposedly getting the runaround, couldn’t get them to come in and give statements and blah, blah, blah. They dragged it out for three years, I guess hoping…
Abby: Most people give up by that point, I imagine.
Anon: Yeah. By that time, my husband had had it, and Trump got elected, and believe it or not, it has everything to do with why we wound up just settling the way we did, because then Jeff Sessions is an office. They’re threatening immigrants, my husband’s an immigrant.
We’re under the Consent Decree, but Sessions is saying, “I don’t give a shit, I don’t even believe in them.” Yeah, so it happened under Obama and we were in an ideal situation being put under a Consent Decree to actually have leverage, but the police dragged it out and dragged it out and dragged it out so that they wound up with the leverage.
So then my husband was like, “What if they dream up some reason to deport me, I can’t go through a deposition.” And we made the mistake of watching The Kalief Browder Story and saw what they did to him during his deposition and my son was like, “I can’t do it either, Mom, I just, I can’t… “ So I was the only one willing to do it and their lawyer was like, “If we don’t get depositions from all of them, we don’t want depositions from any of them,” so I couldn’t be the spokesperson.
They wanted to rake us over the freaking coals, and I wasn’t willing to sacrifice my family for that. So we started weighing the options and my lawyer was like, “I don’t know what to do without you guys giving depositions, ’cause they’re entitled to that,” and she’s like, “I’m going to push to at least get you the money you paid out back for your son going to therapy and you going to therapy and some of the things that they broke when they were up in your son’s room,” and I was like, “Fine, whatever.” And that’s how we wound up all having to sign a document that had a gag order at the end of it.
Abby: So, may I ask, how much was the settlement?
Anon: I wanna say it was like $15,000, and it was so weird because we were in there, their lawyer and my lawyer, and then this retired judge, you could tell he was like, an elitist, and he was like, “Well, I presume you could provide receipts if I wanted them..” So I was like, “Yeah, no I kept every receipt of every dime that I had to pay out.” And I’m like, “I also have pictures of what they did. I also have pictures of the real drug dealer. I also have lists of license plate numbers. You wanna see all that?” And he’s like, “That’s not necessary.” “Because a proper investigation was never done.” And he was like, “Uh, fine, whatever.”
So I was given the paper. I was the only one in the room and then I had to get my husband to sign it, I had to get my older son sign it, even though he wasn’t home at the time, and they made me have my younger son sign it and he’s still a minor.
Abby: And this was one of those that said you won’t say anything disparaging and you won’t talk about things that weren’t legally filed [which means absolutely nothing could be said, since this case hadn’t gotten to the point of legal filings]?
Anon: Yes, but it also said that they could come after me for part of the settlement back. [City Solicitor] Andre Davis had claimed that they tweaked the wording, but when I brought it to the ACLU and they read it, she said this is like a hybrid of the new one and the old one, and it has the worst aspects of them both. They said it was like he was working on it but hadn’t honed it, and she’s like “This looks cut and paste sloppy.”
And I’m thinking, wow, these people were effing lawyers and judges, and they’re okay with this!
Abby: Maybe you could tell me a little about the impact of all this on your younger son, if you’re up to talking about that.
Anon: Before that happened, he was just the happiest child. He would have never been able to go to a therapist and say we did anything to break him. And I was so proud of that, you know? And he was really into baseball, he was a really great student. It’s like he is the personification of my heart walking around.
So, I was fine in the living room until I saw him brought around the corner and his eyes were as big as saucers. I knew he was terrified, I knew I couldn’t comfort him, and then he looked at his father and he almost wanted to cry and that made me break down because I was like, “What did they do to him, what did they do?” I didn’t know until they left, what they did.
Abby: Because you couldn’t ask him.
Anon: Yeah, I couldn’t talk to him and they brought me in the kitchen, they separated me from them. And I kept looking out the doorway and the officer was like, “Why don’t you just have a seat,” like I was totally irking the guy.
But yeah, he was a totally different child, as of that moment. Anger. Sadness. Unsure about himself. He hasn’t played baseball while he was in high school, and that was like his entire life, he’s been baseball his entire existence.
So, yeah, the typical withdrawal of things that bring you pleasure, which is why I immediately put him in therapy. He was in therapy for a year, and then he was like, “Okay, I think I’m okay.” And this took him into his freshman year of high school, and he totally floundered, and I’m like, “No, you can’t. We can’t flounder, we can’t flounder at this juncture.” So I had to find him another therapist. And that’s not easy because there’s a shortage of them, especially ones that specialize in childhood trauma, ’cause you have to specifically look for that.
Abby: We’ve got a lot of childhood trauma in Baltimore City.
Anon: I know, because how many witness things like this, go through things like this and don’t get put in therapy. I think it should be immediately offered, if you’re going to execute this warrant, if there are any children in the household, you must get them services.
Abby: Well, then they might have to admit that they’re terrorizing people…
Anon: Yeah, which they won’t.
Abby: Yeah. So, did the gag order end up affecting you guys?
Anon: Well, it didn’t really affect my husband because he wasn’t talking about it anyway. He never talks about it, he totally buried it. My son actually asked me, “Am I allowed to talk about this with my therapist?” ’cause he thought once that paper was signed, he wasn’t allowed to talk about it. I’m like, “You can talk to your therapist about anything you want, she’s not broadcasting stuff in the newspaper.”
And then with me, I don’t know if you’ve ever seen me when I’m speaking at anything, but I’ve gone to a couple of different forums and I have to speak cryptically, because I’m like, if I say the wrong thing, there could be somebody in this room that can turn me in. I don’t know who all these people are, so I have to watch what I say. A lot of the times I’ll talk about other people’s stuff because I’m afraid to talk about mine. And keeping that internal eats you away, it keeps you up at night, it rattles around in your brain and you can’t get over it because you’re not allowed to release it.
Abby: Is there any other thing you would wanna say?
Anon: My closing statement wants to be just, free Keith Davis, Jr.
Abby: Hell yeah, that’s my closing statement for everything.
What Anon experienced is by no means unique. Ever since the start of the racist drug war (which is, of course, a war on people) in the 80’s, police raids to search for illegal narcotics have been a common pretext for breaking down anyone’s door unannounced on the flimsiest of suspicions. Countless families have gone through this trauma and much worse, with nothing recovered to warrant (so to speak) the damages.
Add to that the systemic corruption in BPD and the potential for abuse skyrockets. After publishing last week’s column, an acquaintance reached out to say she’d had a very similar experience to Anon’s, to the point that reading about it made her ill. She told me that in the course of trying to make progress on her complaint with Internal Affairs, she was asked to get corroborating witnesses and wound up finding twelve other women who had experienced at least some of what she had. She shared more, but asked me to hold the rest back, out of fear of retaliation.
It’s hard to say what’s worse, the actions of the police themselves, or the system that’s supposed to hold them accountable and instead shields them. One major tool of that system has of course been gag orders, restrictions on speech like the ones that Anon and her family were placed under. If we can’t hear from victims, we can’t uncover and stop the patterns of victimization.
Just as of this month, though, it seems this is finally changing. Baltimore’s gag orders were found unconstitutional by a U.S. Appeals Court this summer, and were then banned by the City Council in the fall. Rather than accept this change in policy at the time, though, for months Mayor Young and his spokespeople maintained that the bill was illegal, that it took power away from the City Solicitor in contravention of the City Charter, and that the administration would refuse to comply with it.
But then, at the West Wednesday Speak-Out Session on police brutality and gag orders at City Hall on New Year’s Day, after over an hour of testimony from victims, Deputy City Solicitor Dana Petersen Moore took the mic and announced that her office will no longer be writing gag orders into settlements, and, crucially, will NOT enforce such clauses written into settlements signed in the past. She also said that her office will be releasing a report on the past five years of settlements, another requirement of the new law, to be released this Friday, 1/31. I want to thank Dana for doing that, and I’m looking forward to reviewing the forthcoming info.
So… it’s all over, right? People like Anon can, in fact, speak freely now? Well, maybe so, maybe not. After the Mayor spent so long saying the exact opposite, what I’m hearing is that, in order to begin to feel safe, people need to see this in writing from Young himself. And that sort of clear, written statement from the top is something that we still don’t have.
Moreover, people who’ve been impacted by gag orders in the past need to be proactively told that they are now free to speak, rather than just expecting them to hear through the grapevine that their rights are no longer being violated. The Solicitor’s Office should send letters to everyone previously under a gag order letting them know that they are now formally released from that part of their contracts — they can start, conveniently, with the list of people in their new report.
Oh yeah, and to echo Anon’s point… Free Keith Davis Jr. and pack the courtroom at his hearing on 2/28 (https://www.facebook.com/events/602379147260136/)!!
Cultural Event of the Week: You know what’s wholesome as heck? Baltimore Brews and Board Games (run these days by excellent human being Erika Thomas), a no-cover space where people can get together with friends or strangers, play a favorite game or learn a new one, eat a slice of pizza, have a drink, and win prizes. BABG has finally moved into their new digs at No Land Beyond, which, with a library of 300+ games, is a perfect fit. Catch them this Thursday, 1/30, and every fourth Thursday going forward.
Green Event of the Week: We need renewable energy and we need it **yesterday**. If this is something you’re passionate about, get yourself down to the House of Delegates in Annapolis on Wednesday, 1/29 at noon for the introduction of the Community Choice Energy Act, a new state bill that would give municipalities and counties the control to make the switch themselves. Hosted by Food & Water Watch – Maryland and the Sierra Club Maryland Chapter.