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Here's a tip you should remember. If you've never been to Balti-
, and have a chance to go and watch the Orioles play ball, for-
get it. That is, unless you have GPS in your car and actually know
how to use it. In May, 2006 one Chantilly, Virginia couple learned the
hard way that you don't ask Baltimore cops directions. Joshua Kelly
and Llara Brook discovered those directions led to jail where they
got to spend the night, laying on a concrete floor. Their crime?
Ticking off a female police officer—for asking another cop how
to get to I-95 after getting lost in South Baltimore.

Sometimes the stories get as lost as the people who make the news. This story happened in May, 2006 and while it was reported by the mainstream media and by conservative bloggers like Jonathan Turley, it was a story that did not appear to have any real legs, because it never went viral. The story took six years to garner 139,482 hits on YouTube. It should have because, in Baltimore, Maryland this is an all too common occurrence—people being arrested by arrogant Baltimore cops, thrown in a jail cell overnight and released with no charges ever being filed.

According to Margaret Burns, a spokeswoman for the Maryland State's Attorney, they decline to prosecuted Joshua Kelley, 22, and Llara Brook, 20 from Chantilly, Virginia based on the arrest documents. "There are thousands of cases like this being thrown out every month," she said. "In February (2006) we threw out 902 cases. In March, we throw out over 1,200 cases—that means 70 cases a day." Burns said "nuisance arrests" waste city resources. "Somewhere in the Police Department there is a policy or directive to increase the number of arrests, or crime has gone up."

Baltimore Housing Project Police seem to think that whenever people who don't live in the projects enter the projects they are there to buy drugs. It doesn't occur that people with out-of-state tags may simply be lost. In the case of Brook and Kelley, they were lost. On Saturday, May 13, 2006, they went to Baltimore to see an Orioles game. They were given directions to Interstate 95 South from friends who were at Camden Yards with them. Even with directions, hey got hopelessly lost. Been there. Done that—in Baltimore. They ended up in the 800 block of Bridgeview Drive in Cherry Hill. They spotted Baltimore Housing Authority police officer Natalie Preston in a marked cruiser and stopped to ask her for directions. They drove through the intersection, pulled to the curb and stopped. Preston's cruiser pulled up behind them. Kelley approached her car, relieved. He told her that they were lost, asking, "Could you please get us to 95?"

Preston looked at him and said, "You found your own way in. You can find your own way out." She said they ran a stop sign and demanded his driver's license to write a ticket. Then bad judgment set in. Kelley made the mistake of asking, from her vantage point, how she could see whether or not he stopped at the stop sign. At that point things went from bad to worse. And, at that moment, a second housing project police car pulled up. Brook (sitting her the car) was getting directions from her father on her cell phone. (Both of her parents were police officers in Harrisburg, PA). Preston ordered her out of the car. She handcuffed Brook and placed her under arrest for trespassing—on a public street.

As Kelley walked toward the second cruiser, Preston—a 6-year veteran on the Baltimore force—stepped between Kelley and the second cruiser, saying: "My partner is not going to step in front of me and tell you directions if I'm not." Preston took the pair to jail. Kelley's car was impounded—with the windows rolled down and the car unlocked. Kelley's cell phone charger, a pair of sunglasses, and 20 CDs were taken by the time he paid the impound fees the following morning when the charges against them were dropped and they were released from custody.

WBAL-TV reporter David Collins noted the couple spend 8 hours sleeping on a concrete floor Collins reported that Brook is concerned the arrest may complicate employment background checks, and for that reason, the couple filled a lawsuit against the City of Baltimore—which is what brought the story

Meredith Curtis of the American Civil Liberties Union said the case is part of a much larger trend by local police. "This is the latest, most egregious example of what has been demonstrated to be a pattern of illegal arrests...and that even though the charges were dropped, the couple now has a permanent record that can be expunged only if they agree not to sue. It's ridiculous and unconstitutional."




Just Say No
Copyright 2009 Jon Christian Ryter.
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