Gun-For-Arrest Deals Raise Eyebrows In Baltimore


Two police officers dropped a handcuffed man at Sheila Harding’s front door. The Baltimore Sun says that Richard Rogers, 23, pleaded to the woman who helped raise him, “They’re locking me up. But if you give them a gun, they’ll let me go.” The Sun says interviews and court documents show it to be a common deal offered by Baltimore police to the suspects, usually in minor drug cases. Some officers developed forms to complete hen conducting such exchanges. “That’s kidnapping and holding for ransom,” says Harding. “And because they have a badge and a gun, they’re allowed to get away with it.”

Guns-for-freedom trades have persisted in Baltimore for years, unchecked by police department leaders and unsanctioned by the rest of the criminal justice system. Prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, and residents say the practice raises serious concerns. The deals aren’t legal or enforceable, experts say. “How is that justice?” asks Cheryl Jacobs, chief prosecutor in the narcotic division. “That’s not the way our system of justice is set up to work. … It’s laudable to get guns off the street, but this is not the way we go about it.” Officers and supervisors say it can be a good way to get a deadly weapon from someone arrested on a minor charge unlikely to yield punishment. “If it’s an ends-justifies-a-means thing, that’s problematic,” says Eugene O’Donnell, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and a former New York police officer and prosecutor. “That’s not our legal system. The means matter in our legal system.”


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