Baltimore has become the American face of urban decay and dysfunction in the past couple years, which is impressive considering the level of neglect, corruption, and rock bottom quality of life that chronically plagues several of America’s largest metropoles. While cities like Detroit and Chicago produce headlines which, from time to time, put Baltimore’s systematic futility in perspective, no city is the scion of stories which are quite as ironic in their depressive nature as the Charm City.
There is Baltimore’s public school system, which came under fire as teachers were found to be systematically changing grades in order to pass students. In several cases, students who literally did not show up to class once all year received passing marks. As is too often the case in Baltimore, pressure to ensure even the least qualified students moved on to the next grade – a misguided measure of success for Baltimore’s educational administrators – came from the top. Unsurprisingly, a survey of one-third of the city’s public high schools found that, within that sample size, no students were considered proficient in math.
Then there was the gallivanting group of Baltimore city cops, which included a supervisor, who used profiling of vehicles, barely-legal scare tactics, and sensitive information to abuse their power. And to also conduct activities that decidedly do not fall within the realm of their job descriptions; namely, robbing the home of a man who was in prison of $100,000, then planting a fake note from a fake mistress so that his girlfriend would no longer assist him in fighting his legal case.
Now, we have a new chapter in the storybook of ironically, uniquely Baltimore true legends, courtesy of none other than the city’s Police Commissioner, Darryl De Sousa. De Sousa has admitted to failing to file his taxes for three consecutive years from 2013 to 2015, when he was a salaried employee of the Baltimore City police department.
‘Federal prosecutors have charged Baltimore Police Commissioner Darryl De Sousa with three misdemeanor counts of failing to file federal taxes — drawing an admission from him of wrongdoing.’ (Baltimore Sun)
That includes both federal and state taxes, and he now faces up to a year in prison and a fine of $25,000 for each charge. De Sousa chalked it up in characteristic Baltimore speak by stating that he “failed to sufficiently prioritize [his] personal affairs”.
The irony is difficult to ignore. The man tasked with keeping the Baltimore city police in order – the man in a position commonly referred to as ‘top cop’ – was himself failing to complete a task which virtually every honest, taxpaying American does as a basic matter of principle and self-preservation. Yet, Baltimore’s top law enforcement officer, someone tasked with ensuring that civilians fulfill their duty to follow the laws of the land, ‘willfully’ failed to fulfill the basic task of filing his tax returns.
And, giving the entire debacle another hint of irony, De Sousa takes in a comfortable $210,000 salary – far more than most in both the private and public sectors – and that salary is paid by none other than the taxpayers. Of which, De Sousa was apparently not one. So, somebody whose job is supposedly hinging on his ability to ensure that others follows the law was apparently not doing so himself. And the same man whose job would not exist were it not for the support of the taxpayers, showed willful disdain for his own need to pay taxes, despite a salary far greater than the average cop or public servant.
But the most Baltimore aspect of all in this utterly Baltimore-esque story is the fact that the mayor of the city still has full faith in De Sousa’s ability to do his job.
This story is an embarrassment to the city of Baltimore, no doubt. But firing the Police Commissioner who was just sworn in of February this year would likely be even more of an embarrassment. At least, that would seem to be how Mayor Catherine Pugh is looking at the scenario.
“As Commissioner De Sousa has explained, he made a mistake in not filing his taxes for the years in question. He is working to resolve this matter and has assured me that he will do so as quickly as possible,” Pugh said in a statement Thursday. “I have full confidence in Darryl De Sousa in his capacity as Commissioner of the Baltimore Police Department and trust that he will continue to focus on our number one priority of reducing violence.”
Because, certainly, somebody who knowingly fails to file taxes for three straight years while being employed as a policemen wouldn’t seem to have the judgement needed to righteously fulfill the role of top cop. But, by Pugh’s estimation, as long as De Sousa reduces the out-of-control violence in Baltimore, all else can be forgiven.
But, De Sousa hasn’t proven effective in reducing crime. It’s early yet, but the city is on pace for the second highest murder rate in a decade. They’ve hit 100 homicides for the year already, and the details of specific murders are as hair-raising as it gets.
‘Baltimore hit 100 homicides for the year with the fatal stabbing of a 74-year-old man at home and the fatal shooting of a 16-year-old boy on a recreation center basketball court in separate incidents Tuesday, marking the second-fastest pace of killings in the city in a decade.’ (Baltimore Sun)
In a city plagued with corruption at all levels of the public sector, such crime is to be expected. But, it’s this corruption being tolerated that continues to lock the city in a holding pattern of misery, poverty, and violence. Politicians in cities such as Baltimore are often crooked by nature, but at some point, one would think that the city’s residents would make the connection between a Police Commissioner who willfully fails to pay his taxes, a mayor who has full confidence in that Commissioner, and the state of a city perpetually in shambles.
But, if there’s one thing that Baltimore’s proven consistent at, it’s voting crooks into office, and tolerating them once they’re there. There’s no reason to think that will change, now or ever.