Democratic presidential hopeful Martin O’Malley’s credibility is coming under attack from an unexpected source, a long-time friend and African-American civil rights advocate in the Baltimore Police Department.
Sgt. Louis H. Hopson, who has worked at the Baltimore Police Department for 35 years and is a board member of the Vanguard Justice Society, an influential association of Baltimore African-American police officers, charges that O’Malley didn’t know what to do about race relations when he was the city’s mayor from 1999 to 2007. O’Malley was then elected Maryland governor twice.
Hopson blames many of Baltimore’s current racial problems on O’Malley and says many in the city’s African-American community fear an O’Malley presidency.
Hopson made Baltimore civil rights history in 2004 when O’Malley was mayor and trouble was brewing within the police department. White supervisors were accused of improperly sanctioning African-American police officers.
Hopson became the lead plaintiff in a landmark lawsuit, “Hopson v. The Mayor.” The city awarded $2.5 million in 2009 to more than a dozen African-American police officers and required an independent monitor to oversee the department’s disciplinary practices.
“Here’s his problem,” Hopson told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “Martin doesn’t know what to do when it comes to the race issue. And like a lot of people, they will just ignore it and hope it goes away,” he said.
“Martin exposed corruption, but he didn’t do anything about it when he became mayor,” Hopson charges. “That’s where the animosity began with African-American officers and African-Americans in the city. Martin O’Malley is not a finisher. We wouldn’t be in the position we’re in today had Martin done something about this.”
Hopson’s comments could spell trouble for O’Malley, who is positioning himself as the more progressive alternative to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential Democratic race.
Thanks to Clinton’s status as the overwhelming favorite for the Democratic nomination, O’Malley’s record in Maryland as governor and in Baltimore as mayor has yet to be examined in detail by the national media.
Hopson says he still considers O’Malley to be a friend, but he, too, fears an O’Malley White House.
“The question is, what happens if he becomes president. That’s the scary part. He failed to capture the hearts and minds of the African-Americans,” Hopson said.
O’Malley came under fire last April when he was heckled by African-American residents while he was touring the city. O’Malley had rushed back to Baltimore from an overseas trip following riots that were triggered by the death of Freddie Gray in police custody.
Polls suggest O’Malley’s presidential effort lacks support in his home state as well as elsewhere in the country.
A Baltimore Sun poll last October showed 60 percent of Marylanders were unenthusiastic about O’Malley’s then-prospective run for the White House, while only 31 percent of African-Americans supported it.
The Hopson lawsuit was slowed for years by O’Malley’s refusal to produce electronic police department disciplinary records in the litigation’s discovery process.
U.S. District Judge Paul W. Grimm became so exasperated with O’Malley’s delaying tactics that he harshly admonished the mayor’s city solicitor in a December 2005 memo.
“Regrettably, the defendant’s submission is so devoid of information regarding both the type of records that are viewed as confidential, as well as the authority for regarding them as confidential and beyond the scope of discovery, that a meaningful evaluation of the issue is impossible. Given the length of time that the defendants have been asserting confidentiality, this is as troubling as it is unacceptable,” the judge told the city.
Hopson believes an effective political leader must represent all people on race issues. “Martin wasn’t that guy. Martin was ambitious. He didn’t want anything to interfere with that ambition. Race is a very ugly and touchy subject. You have to deal with these issues as they present themselves to you. And Martin wasn’t that guy,” Hopson said.
The O’Malley campaign did not return TheDCNF calls.
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