The arrival of the federal judge renewed the squeegee debate

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A federal judge overseeing the Baltimore Police Department’s reform efforts called officers last Sunday and reported that two squeegee workers gave him the middle finger, spat on his car and wrote “racist” on the windows with soapy water.

According to a police report, no property was damaged, no one was injured and none of the doctor blade workers were charged in the incident. But U.S. District Court Judge James K. Bredar’s altercation with squeegee workers and subsequent police response has brought renewed focus to squeegeeing and raised questions about the need for law enforcement to respond to certain situations.

“The fact is, not every challenge should be met with policing and law enforcement,” said Dave Jaros, director of the Center for Criminal Justice Reform at the University of Baltimore School of Law.

According to a police report, Bredar and his wife were stopped at the intersection of North Avenue and Mount Royal Terrace last Sunday afternoon when two doctor workers approached their SUV and offered to clean the windshields. Bredar and his wife rejected them, and the couple became hostile, with one of them giving the middle finger to Bredar’s wife, the report said.

Bredar, who was a passenger in the SUV, took a picture of this 20-year-old man, who then spat on the car, the judge later told police. Bredar, a white man, reported that the other worker used his squeegee to spell the word “racist” on the SUV’s windows.

After the couple drove away, Bredar called the Baltimore Police Department and asked the department to send officers to the intersection. Once there, the worker, who appeared to be showing the middle finger, spoke to officers, who warned him and told him to stop mopping at that intersection.

Only one of the workers was named in the police report.

Neither Bredar nor the named employee responded to calls and text messages requesting interviews. A spokesman for the US District Court in Maryland confirmed that Bredar called the police but did not comment. The Baltimore Banner, an online news site, originally reported on the interaction.

After this summer’s deadly shooting at an Inner Harbor intersection reignited debate over whether squeegees should be allowed, future Baltimore District Attorney Ivan Bates said he will police workers from the intersections and into court-ordered areas Distraction programs allow them to connect with social services and vocational training. Activists feared that Bates’ plan would mark a possible return to a “no rough edges” enforcement style that had plagued Baltimore for years, culminating in the police department reaching a consensus order with the US Department of Justice over its unconstitutional surveillance of poor black people had to neighborhoods.

Bredar, who leads enforcement of the decree, addressed the squeegeeing related to the decree in August, saying it does not prohibit “vigorous enforcement” designed to restrict such workers.

“In general, city leaders will decide whether enforcement action should be taken in relation to the doctor blade issue,” he said, adding that “the terms of the consent decree govern how those enforcement actions will be conducted.”

While Bredar didn’t directly weigh what he thinks the city should do about doctor blade workers, his decision to call police on Sunday suggests he thinks law enforcement should play a role, activists said.

“The judge has made it clear that he is not a neutral party and believes the solution to the challenges our city faces will be found by calling the police to black men and boys — the key issue underlying the existence of the consent decree.” enforced,” said DeRay Mckesson, founder of nonprofit Campaign Zero, which works to eradicate police violence.

Mckesson called for Bredar to be removed from oversight of the consent decree, saying he had “no more legitimacy”.

Mayor Brandon Scott earlier this summer formed the Squeegee Collaborative, a group of local businesspeople, nonprofit and youth leaders, and elected officials working to develop solutions to the squeegee problem. The group has met several times and will announce its strategy “in the coming weeks,” said Monica Lewis, a spokeswoman for Scott.

“Any enforcement strategy must strike a balance between the rights of everyone making requests and the government’s interest in public safety,” Lewis said Tuesday.

The Baltimore Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3 this week pointed to the Bredar incident as another example of townspeople feeling unsafe.

‘Judge Bredar, why are you driving through this intersection? You should avoid it, like most of us do every day. I’m glad you and your wife were unharmed,” the FOP wrote on Twitter.

Sergeant Mike Mancuso, the union president, did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

Police officers’ union leaders have complained that the department’s leadership is focused on the Consent Decree and not enough on crime reduction, and that officers feel discouraged from engaging in proactive policing.

A mainstay at major city intersections for decades, Baltimore’s doctor blade workers are typically young, black people living in severe poverty. Many see it as the best way to meet their basic needs.

The squeegee debate reached a head this summer when Timothy Reynolds, a 48-year-old white man from Hampden in north Baltimore, got out of his car with a bat and confronted a group of black workers at the Inner Harbor intersection of Light and Conway Streets. The altercation ended with one of the workers shooting and killing Reynolds. One of the workers, who turned 15 the next day, is charged with first-degree murder; His attorneys said he acted in self-defense.

Many downtown drivers and business owners consider the workers a nuisance, and a handful have described anxious interactions that resulted in vehicle damage or being scammed out of thousands of dollars. But such negative interactions are the minority as thousands of drivers drive by every day without incident.

Defense attorney Warren Brown, who is representing the teenager charged with murder in Reynolds’ death in July, said he understands how the workers’ presence can make many motorists, particularly white ones, nervous, especially when aggressively seeking tips.

“People understandably feel like hostages when they’re caught in the light and swarmed by squeegee kids,” he said. “They would probably feel less threatened if these kids wore their blue blazers and striped ties.”

Brown, who is black, said he sometimes avoids squeegee crossings because constant tipping can be tedious. However, he said he was discouraged when he was in Baltimore County, where he lives, and heard people say that one reason they avoid coming to town is because of the workers.

“They look at squeegees as an extension of crime,” Brown said.

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