Police union VP suspended after ‘Thugs of Baltimore’ email

© Reuters
A high-ranking Baltimore police lieutenant, also the vice president of the police union, was suspended after sending an email to union members calling Black Lives Matter protesters “Thugs of Baltimore.”

Police Commissioner Kevin Davis suspended Lieutenant Victor Gearhart Monday morning after the email was sent to the entire police department using his official department account, according to the Baltimore Sun.

In an email obtained by WJZ, Lieutenant Gearhart, a 33-year veteran on the Baltimore police force, wrote to the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP).

“By now you have seen that the THUGS from Black Lives Matter and other similar groups have attempted to disrupt the State FOP Convention being held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. Well today as check-in day with activities spread over the next 3 days so expect more bad behavior from the Thugs of Baltimore. On the bright side maybe they will stop killing each other while they are protesting us.”

The email came in the wake of 12 people being arrested during demonstrations at the opening of Maryland’s Fraternal Order of Police conference on Sunday afternoon.

Members of the Baltimore Bloc locked themselves together using PVC pipes and chained themselves to a railing. With signs reading “Abolish FOP” they blocked the escalator leading to the conference at the Hyatt. The incident marks the latest in a series of protests in recent weeks against police unions.

Baltimore Bloc and other activist groups said they were demanding “an end to racist policing practices and stop the institution that arms, pays and protects killer cops in our city, state, and nation.”

WJZ reported that Lt. Gearhart was the vice president of the police union and was running to be president of the FOP. It wasn’t the first time Gearhart had landed in hot water and he has a history of making controversial statements, according to the Baltimore Sun.

But the email scandal comes less than a week after the Justice Department delivered a scathing report, following a 14-month investigation of the practices and procedures of the Baltimore Police Department. It revealed officers routinely discriminated against blacks, repeatedly using excessive force, and were routinely not held accountable.

Among the many egregious complaints were over 60 strip searches conducted without a warrant, and several in public. In one anecdote, a woman who was pulled over for a broken taillight was strip searched in public and subjected to an anal cavity search. She was not arrested or even issued a ticket.

BPD Commissioner Kevin Davis assured the public at the last week’s news conference that the report is a “turning point” and that the city’s police department “will be the model for this nation.”

Protesters were in two groups on Sunday. It took police and firefighters about an hour and a half before they arrested a dozen or so protesters, who chained themselves to the escalator inside the Hyatt Hotel for the conference.

Forty to 50 other protesters rallied outside the hotel. Dr. Lawrence Brown described it as “lively and powerful and even disruptive” and said some conference attendees had canceled their bookings.

On Monday, protesters rallied outside the FOP lodge, where conference attendees were shuttled from the hotel to attend a party. Dr. Brown said other protests are planned for Tuesday and Wednesday.