Baltimore City Councilman Eric Costello called Greater Baltimore Urban League president Tiffany Majors last week to ask a favor: Could police detectives use the nonprofit’s West Side headquarters to conduct covert surveillance of suspected drug dealing in an adjacent apartment complex? Majors was taken aback by the proposal and quickly shot it down, reports the Baltimore Sun. “I’m not interested whatsoever in using our space, which is a safe space for marginalized communities, for your police hub,” Majors told the councilman. She said the proposal badly confused the mission of her historic organization — serving the community through educational and job training programs — and threatened its hard-earned trust among local residents.
She added, “I’ve never heard of the police reaching out to a politician to ask a nonprofit agency if police could use their facility for surveillance.” In neighborhoods struggling with drug dealing and the violence that often comes with it, police constantly look for allies. “It’s always hard when you come into a community and there has been a recent history of mistrust,” said Chuck Wexler of the Police Executive Research Forum. “There’s a very important dynamic here, in that in the very moment the police need the community to help them prevent crime, the community is wary of the police.” The dynamic has long played out in major cities, but is especially a concern in Baltimore given the exploding opioid epidemic, unprecedented violence, repeated corruption and abuse scandals involving police, and a federal consent decree mandating improved community interactions.