justice from the frontlines: July 30, 2023

Brooklyn Day shooting victims

The Baltimore Police reportedly seized the belongings of the Brooklyn Day shooting victims. One woman said that the police had taken two of her favorite designer accessories when her son was in surgery. These accessories add up to a cost of $2,500. In 2021, there were a number of class-action lawsuits against the city over police seizures of personal belongings as evidence. The lawsuit is in settlement talks. A spokesperson for the Police Department said “evidently property” is held until the conclusion of a criminal case, and that it shares this to victims through its Victim Services Unit. Of the nine requests to hand back belongings, it has honored two of them, for a vehicle and a cell phone.  The Baltimore Banner (July 25, 2023)

ShotSpotter launched in Baltimore County

Baltimore State’s Attorney Ivan Bates, shown at a news conference earlier this year.

Despite its rising controversy, Baltimore County will launch the gunshot detection system, ShotSpotter, as a part of a two-year $738k pilot program paid for with federal pandemic funding. ShotSpotter uses audio sensors to identify “gunshot-like sounds,” alerting police of where gunfire may have occurred. Software developers claim that its real-time tracking can locate a shooting more quickly and accurately than witnesses who call the police. It will cover roughly 5.2 square miles in unspecified areas of the Essex and Wilkens precincts. The system has been scrutinized for years by constitutional right activists and jettisoned by jurisdictions for its efficacy. The Baltimore Banner (July 26, 2023)

Alexandria police chief speaks out

Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Leonard Bishop (7F08) after receiving a food handling certificate.

Alexandria Police Chief Don Hayes told FOX 5 that in his 30 years in the city, he has never seen crime and violence so rampant. He believes that the rise in crime is interfering with the quality of life for residents. Alexandra is 15 square miles with a little over 150,000 people. Hence, it is shocking that there have been a total of 48 shots fired calls for service in the city. Hayes said, “I can tell you; I don’t think we’ve hit this number in this timeframe in the City of Alexandria, ever.” Hayes believes that this is an underlying societal issue, and not exclusively a “police problem.” FOX 5 (July 26, 2023)

laughter allegedly sparks fatal shooting

A view of the D.C. Superior Court building in downtown Washington.

Outside a hotel in Capitol Heights, three people were arrested and charged in a fatal shooting. According to a preliminary investigation, there was a dispute after the victim “began laughing with his friends” when the other party was locked out of his hotel room. Police have reviewed hotel surveillance video which showed the verbal argument. Officers arrived at the scene after the shooting. They later shared that the victim had gunshot wounds and was taken to the hospital, where he died. There has yet to be a statement from attorneys or the family. The Washington Post (July 28, 2023)

judge denies indictment to police officer

A judge denied a petition by former Fairfax County police officer Wesley Shifflett to get his job back after he shot and killed a suspect earlier this year. In February, Shifflett killed unarmed Timothy Johnson, who was accused of shoplifting. Shifflett was denied indictment on charges of involuntary manslaughter and reckless discharge of firearm. Despite this, Shifflett petitioned for his return, arguing that the county did not follow the legal grievance process in his termination. NBC Washington (July 27, 2023)

lack of diversity in Virginia State Police

The D.C. Jail.

Phillip Diamond overheard a white supervisor say that he wanted to hire another officer before the hiring process for a sergeant. Diamond said, “You can’t tell me that wasn’t biased. It seems like they are choosing who they want to choose, and it may not be the best qualified person.” This has sparked a conversation surrounding diversity in the department. Public data shows that white applicants are accepted at higher rates than minority applicants. White men make up 80% of Virginia State Police, whereas Black men make up 8%. Another report showcased the disparity between white and Black officers, revealing that minority employees did not “perceive a level playing field within.” The Daily Progress (July 28, 2023)

staffing challenges for D.C. police chief

Floyd Branch III, a restorative justice specialist for Montgomery County Public Schools, speaks about the practice at an elementary school PTA meeting.

Chief Pamela Smith is facing challenges when it comes to staffing. Smith seeks to deploy more officers to locations in the city dealing with a spike in crime. Despite her efforts, the News4 I-Team uncovered that these neighborhoods have seen a shrinking police force. Since January, there have been 41 shootings or homicides with a gun in Police Service Area 708, which is 16 more than this time last year. A criminologist at Virginia Commonwealth University said that understaffing is “bad for public safety and it’s bad for community relations.” NBC Washington (July 20, 2023)

shooting at recreation center

One man was shot and killed at Marie Reed Recreation Center in DC. The man was identified as 30-year-old Arnold Humberto Solis. According to the police investigation and witness testimony, a number of men were sitting in the bleachers at a soccer game when a fight broke out. The situation escalated when a firearm was discharged. There was no verbal interaction beforehand and no prior indication of any threat to public safety. The shooter is unidentified and was reported leaving the scene before the police arrived. DC News Now (July 27, 2023)

From the Des

in other news

Patrol dogs are terrorizing and mauling prisoners across the country. Photographs have been taken showing men prone or shackled as dogs attack. Prisoners have reported that officers shouted racial slurs watching the attacks. In the United States, 12 states have authorized the use of attack-trained dogs in prison, and records show that states have their own protocol for deploying them. Insider (July 23, 2023)

Alabama’s chemical endangerment law makes it illegal to expose or permit a minor to ingest illegal drugs. In Etowah County, prosecutors have held pregnant women in prison for exposing their fetus to marijuana. Many women jailed for chemical endangerment were arrested for using before they were aware they were pregnant, never getting the chance to quit before they were arrested. The Marshall Project (July 26, 2023)

The House Democrats are proposing a bill that would broadly ban the use of solitary confinement in federal prisons, jails and detention centers. The End Solitary Confinement Act would put an end to prohibiting isolating inmates and detainees with few exceptions while ensuring their due process rights. Solitary Watch (July 27, 2023) 

The Fort Belknap reservation in Montana is suing the federal government over lack of police funds. Two Indigenous tribes, the Assiniboine or Nakoda and the Gros Ventre, who refer to themselves as A’aninin or “People of the White Clay,” inhabit the reservation. One resident said, “They’ve been neglecting us for over 23 years; we’ve exhausted all options. They just don’t seem like they care.” The lawsuit was filed in October after a request for $5.3 million in funding. The Guardian (July 26, 2023)

In Mississippi, those with serious mental illness or substance abuse can be jailed, even if they are not charged with a crime. Since 2006, at least 13 people have died in Mississippi county jails as they awaited treatment for mental illness or substance abuse. Nine of the 13 killed themselves. Mississippi Today (july 27, 2023)

community board

  • Apply: The Sentencing Project is Hiring for Undergraduate Youth Justice Advocacy Fellow 
  • Petition: National Campaign to Close Central Cell Block (CCB) 
  • Read: How Connecticut has Cut Incarceration in Half 
  • Watch: Company Strives to End Cycle of Recidivism and Mass Incarceration
  • Watch: Nonprofit Receives $100K grant for work in DC Juvenile Justice System 
  • Read: Prince George’s County Weekly Update 
  • Read: Ending Eternal Punishment for Young Adults
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Zoe Kim attends Villanova University, where she is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and minors in Economics and Philosophy. Passionate in criminal justice, Zoe was drawn to The Des and independent journalism serving as a call to action. The Dez gives Zoe the opportunity to pursue her interest in media and criminal justice. As an intern, she is enthusiastic to see first-hand how journalism can spark change socially.