Rent-a-Cops Acting Like Cowboys, Locals Say

     BALTIMORE (CN) – Two white security guards are masquerading as police officers in a predominantly black Maryland neighborhood, residents say in court.
     According to the complaint, the Cherry Hill community of Baltimore was originally developed as planned community for black veterans returning from World War II. Today, the neighborhood’s predominantly black population is 7,600 and the median annual income for homeowners is $17,464. The neighborhood also holds the highest concentration of public housing in Baltimore.
     But while local ministers and community leaders have worked to turn the neighborhood around, three neighborhood apartment complexes hired Tenable Protective Services to provide private security services.
     Tenable allegedly hired Robert Osborne and John Spitzer to work at its properties, which are controlled by Maryland Management.
     Though Osborne and Spitzer are just security guards and never attended police academy, they have concealed handgun permits and the Baltimore Police Commissioner appointed them to act as special police officers, the residents claim.
     “Indeed, Osborne and Spitzer effectively impersonated police officers by holding themselves out as such and outfitting themselves with clothing and equipment that is traditionally used by sworn officers of the Baltimore Police Department,” the complaint states. “For example, Osborne installed blue and white emergency lights, a police scanner and a laptop computer in the unmarked white Expedition that he and Spitzer commonly used when performing mobile patrols. Both Osborne and Spitzer wore bulletproof vests with the word ‘Police’ printed on the front and back. Osborne even posted a picture of several people in handcuffs on his Facebook page along with a comment indicating that he ‘[d]id two days of surveillance to catch them.'”
     The Cherry Hill Trust, community leader Cleoda Walker and 22 black residents say Osborne and Spitzer have run “around like cowboys,” impersonating police officers and violating the civil rights of residents.
     “These security guards have been appointed as special police officers by Baltimore’s police commissioner,” according to the complaint. “They are abusing their special police powers by indiscriminately stopping and searching people under the guise of enforcing the trespass laws, then maliciously and intentionally arresting people and/or requesting that sworn police officers of the Baltimore Police Department arrest people based on knowingly false or misleading information.”
     Osborne and Spitzer have physically and emotionally injured and harassed residents while trampling civil rights, residents say.
     Tenable allegedly boasts that it is a nationwide provider of event and property, and a community member.
     “However, the private security services that Tenable has provided and continues to provide to the Cherry Hill community fall far short of its lofty pronouncements,” the complaint states. “Although the specific type of services that Tenable has been performing in Cherry Hill is not entirely clear, what is clear is that Tenable’s compliance with its own hiring standards has been, at best perfunctory and that it has completely failed to provide any meaningful training or supervision to its security guards.”
     The residents say they didn’t even know Osborne and Spitzer were not cops until they threatened community leader Cleoda Walker, saying that “the property should burn down and that Walker should be inside when it did and that he hoped that she would die.”
     The 45-page complaint details numerous run-ins between Cherry Hill residents and the two guards, but the predominant theme involves allegations that the two white men stopped, questioned, searched and often detained residents for no reason.
     Residents want $15 million for 17 counts of civil rights violations, and unspecified punitive damages. They are represented by William Murphy Jr. of Murphy Falcon.

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