Hear Me Out

Proactive Policing: The Baltimore Equation
By Joel E. Gordon

Whoever coined the popular idiom “Never bring a knife to a gun fight” probably didn’t have this in mind: an officer using his departmentally issued baton against an outlaw with a gun.

Officer Kevin Battipaglia is yet another officer who appears to be under attack in the City of Baltimore by State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby. Unsuccessful in prosecutions against the six Baltimore police officers she formerly charged with criminal offenses in the Freddie Gray death case – whose death occurred subsequent to injuries received while being transported and in police custody – NOW THIS…

A five-year veteran, the officer has been arrested and charged with first-degree assault and misconduct for using his baton against an illegal gunman he was disarming and placing under arrest while on duty. Details remain limited, but a Baltimore Sun newspaper article excerpt revealed the following:

A Baltimore City police officer was arrested and charged after he arrested the alleged victim for handgun violations. During the on-duty incident the officer allegedly struck a man over the head with a club on Christmas Eve, according to police and the alleged victim’s attorney.

City prosecutors charged Officer Kevin Battipaglia and police suspended him without pay, police spokesman Chief T.J. Smith said in a statement. In addition to assault, Battipaglia is charged with misconduct in office. “We take these matters very seriously,” Smith said in the statement. “At this stage, the evidence in this case will be scrutinized in the judicial system.”

The incident occurred on Dec. 24, 2017 and the aftermath was filmed and posted online.

Defense attorney Latoya Francis-Williams said her client, 21-year-old Darrian Carr, was the victim. He is being held without bail on gun charges related to the incident. “I’m pleased to hear the officer is being charged,” she said Friday. “I’m displeased that my client is still fighting criminal charges.” She said Carr was walking down the street when Battipaglia approached him, struck him over the head and knocked him to the ground.

The video shows Carr on the ground, with an officer — not Battipaglia — straddling him and holding him down. Another unidentified officer is holding what appears to be a service weapon drawn. Battipaglia can be seen holding his police-issue club, and at one point kicks a can toward a crowd that has gathered.

Carr was charged with a handgun offense in relation to the incident. Francis-Williams disputed the charge, saying “no one can figure out where this handgun came from.”

It has been further noted that Officer Battipaglia, who is also a military veteran, was physically arrested and was required to spend a night in jail as part of what was called “the process” nearly three months after the initial incident.

Would the powers that be have preferred that officers, perceiving a threat of handgun violence, used force of a potentially more deadly nature higher up on the use of force continuum? Were the officer’s actions worthy of criminal charges for an incident in which he was proactively affecting a handgun arrest? Without more complete incident details, it is hard to determine answers to those questions or if even those are the right questions to be asked. Given Marilyn Mosby’s past actions, it is highly suspect at best that the incident would legitimately warrant any more action than an internal review to determine compliance with departmental policy and any mitigating circumstances. The larger question to be answered – were the officers’ actions actually within the boundaries of departmentally trained de-escalation techniques or exceeding what could reasonably be anticipated to be required to stop any threat? Did, in fact, the officer fail to draw his own service sidearm due to fear of repercussion and reluctance to force generation of newly enacted and consent decree-mandated written reports and justifications? In the final analysis and most importantly, the encounter resulted in neither officers nor the suspect receiving serious injury or worse and resulted in a successful handgun arrest.

Some say that the charges brought by Mosby in this case may be an election year ploy in an attempt to garner votes in her re-election campaign playing to the “progressive” base of Mosby and Baltimore Democrat voters.

In the meantime, the officer is left to try and maintain his life while suspended and facing further internal review of the incident along with the criminal prosecution. Having just closed on a home, he had just started planning for his wedding.

When the police go out and work to take deadly weapons off the street, risking their own lives and livelihood, and this is what happens to one of those officers, the question must be asked: Is this the death of proactive policing and a final nail in the coffin of law and order in Baltimore?

Who could be surprised if it is?

Joel E. Gordon is a former Field Training Officer with the Baltimore City Police Department and is a past Chief of Police for the city of Kingwood, West Virginia. He is an award winning journalist and is author of the book Still Seeking Justice: One Officer’s Story. Joel is the founder of the Facebook group Police Authors Seeking Justice. Look him up at stillseekingjustice.com