Officials gather at Morgan to talk Public Safety

Mayor Brandon Scott held a public safety summit at Morgan State University on Friday with Governor Wes Moore, Attorney General Anthony Brown, and City of Baltimore State’s Attorney Ivan Bates.


J.J. McQueen/Mayor of Baltimore City

Mayor Brandon Scott’s Public Safety Summit at Morgan State University on Feb. 3.

Lillian Stephens, Staff Writer

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott invited three other leaders, who are linchpins in Maryland politics, to attend a Public Safety Summit at Morgan State University Friday afternoon.

Jason Johnson, associate professor in multimedia journalism, asked questions that weighed heavily on Morgan’s faculty and students minds to Scott, Governor Wes Moore, Attorney General Anthony Brown, and City of Baltimore State’s Attorney Ivan Bates. 

Johnson also presented questions from the audience, who had registered in advance for this private event. The summit was not open to the public, but Morgan students and faculty were welcome to attend.

Johnson asked legislators to name and address the leading cause of violent crime, what they envisioned its solution or many solutions to be, and ended the evening by asking about accountability in matters of police brutality.

The other questions Johnson asked spoke to incidents Morgan students had experienced within the past several months: the murder of Julian Fruh near Morgan’s campus in August 2022, and a shooting during Morgan’s homecoming in October 2022.

“I think the challenge of the question is that it assumes there’s a singular answer to deal with,” said Moore. “We have to understand there is going to be no singular thing that we can invest in, or no singular thing that we can put a particular level of focus on. That’s how we frame it … the families who we love and we are supporting, and that we represent, it’s not showing itself in one way and so we can try to address it in that fashion.”

Baltimore’s Mayor said as much when he echoed a similar sentiment. “There is no silver bullet,” said Scott. “All of it matters.”

Moore spoke in support of increasing funding for police departments throughout Maryland and granting them more access to resources. Brown spoke at length about a law with which to codify harsher sentences for illegal possession of a firearm – and, which he argued, would deter future violent crimes.

“At the end of the day, we know we want to have a safer community for everybody,” said Bates.

However, none of Maryland’s elected officials made any mention of police brutality until Johnson pointedly posed the question at the end of the summit. Johnson’s question regarding police brutality was accentuated by the recent killing of Tyre Nichols in Memphis, Tenn., and the video Memphis officials released last week showing the incident.

“There’s still a lot more work that has to be done. When I think of the two and a half, almost three years, since the murder of George Floyd, few states have made the kind of progress we have in Maryland,” said Brown.

Scott said Baltimore was a city that moved to correct police accountability before laws made it necessary. The city erected a Community Oversight Taskforce, which can recommend reforms to the current system of civilian oversight and review board of the Baltimore Police Department.

“I can assure you that there were complaints that were made to somebody that were ignored,” said Brown. “Those complaints need to come to the Office of the Attorney General. When you have bad actors in law enforcement, the consequences are dire and we saw them full on display last Friday.”

Brown restated his intent to pursue the right to conduct “pattern-or-practice” investigations with the state of Maryland. If granted, it would allow him, as the attorney general, the ability to conduct investigations when there are repeated signs of police misconduct. The potential investigations would work with local law enforcement to identify contributing factors to a culture that either supports or ignores repeated misconduct within departments.

“The purpose is not to seek out criminal liability,” said Brown. “There are other mechanisms in place for that.”

The Public Safety Summit was functionally equivalent to a town hall despite the presence of four major figures in Maryland’s legislature. They discussed public safety measures, legislative posture and intent, pre-existing initiatives and legislation, and answered questions from the audience during the summit. However, officials did not present new legislation to address problems decades – and in some cases – centuries in the making.

“For us here in Baltimore, we’re going to continue to work … we’re reforming the department in a way that we’re focusing them in the constitutional way on how to do their job,” said Scott. “That’s what Black people were saying, not just here in Baltimore, but around this country. They wanted to be treated like humans – which we saw the opposite of last week.”

As they sat on the stage and addressed questions from both Johnson and the audience, the press watched the forum from a separate screening room. Event staff directed all members of the press away from the University Student Center theatre upon their arrival – preventing them from physically joining the summit.

Scott later apologized to all media and attended a brief press conference following the summit, which Bates also attended.

“I swore-in the first ever police accountability board of citizens in Baltimore … Before the state passed any rules and laws, we had citizens on our state trial boards, being a part of police discipline processes,” said Scott. “Always stay in tune. Students don’t have to wait to be a part of the process. If you have experiences, let us know. More importantly, they can be involved in our policy change. Any big policy, any big movement in the country has always been driven by young people.”