Wicomico County Sheriff Michael Lewis was a guest on 105.7 The Fan’s The Norris and Davis Show with Ed Norris and Steve Davis on Thursday to discuss allegations that police were told to stand down during the Monday riots in Baltimore.
It is Sheriff Lewis’ contention that he and other local police were ordered to stand down and give ground in the face of criminal behavior by the rioters on Monday afternoon. He’s not sure from where the order originated, but he knows that the call was going out to all forces because he heard it over his personal radio.
Here’s what Sheriff Lewis had to say:
“I immediately rallied up the troops. We made sure our MRAP was prepared and ready. … We were assigned to assigned to protect Baltimore City Police headquarters, all of E. Fayette Street up to City Hall, to include City Hall. There wasn’t a whole lot of activity taking place at all. We could smell that putrid smell of burning tires and a city on fire when as we came into the city. Had lots of concerns like everyone else. We maintained our post all night long until we were relieved.”
While Lewis and his men didn’t face down rioters, he was shocked by what he heard happening across the city and by the orders given to him by city police not to confront any rioters. Lewis also couldn’t be sure if the orders came from the Mayor’s office (the most likely scenario), but he knows that they came from somewhere because most police officers would never choose non-confrontation when the result would mean ransacked business and burning cars.
“I was sick to my stomach like everybody else. … This was urban warfare, no question about it. They were coming in absolutely beaten down. The [city officers] got out of their vehicles, thanked us profusely for being there, apologized to us for having to be there. They said we could have handled this, we were very capable of handling this, but we were told to stand down, repeatedly told to stand down,” he said. “I had never heard that order come from anyone — we went right out to our posts as soon as we got there, so I never heard the mayor say that. But repeatedly these guys, and there were many high-ranking officials from the Baltimore City Police Department … and these guys told me they were essentially neutered from the start. They were spayed from the start. They were told to stand down, you will not take any action, let them destroy property. I couldn’t believe it, I’m a 31-year veteran of law enforcement. … I had never heard anything like this before in my life and these guys obviously aren’t gonna speak out and the more I thought about this, … I had to say a few things. I apologize if I’ve upset people, but I believe in saying it like it is.
I heard it myself over the Baltimore City police radio that I had tethered to my body-armor vest, I heard it repeatedly. ‘Stand down, stand down, stand down! Back up, back up, retreat, retreat!’ I couldn’t believe those words. Those are words I’ve never heard in my law enforcement vocabulary,” he said. “Baltimore City police, all law enforcement agencies are very capable of handling that city. They’re trained to handle that city. These guys were hearing words that had never been echoed in their lives, in their careers.”
It doesn’t sound like the Baltimore police are going to be very happy when everything is said and done.