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Mobtown Beat

Whose Cops Are These?

Police raid on a private party raises questions about “private duty” cops

Photo: Noah Scialom, License: N/A

Noah Scialom


Police shut down a party at a local arts space in the wee hours of Sept. 1, leaving questions about the legal status of such spaces, police procedure and motives, and the alleged off-duty police who were hired to provide security.

People who were at the Scapescape afterparty say a dozen or more Baltimore police officers came in hard, with “tasers clicking” and lots of attitude for the 40 or so revelers who had gathered by then. They arrested Andrew Gaddis, an organizer of the party and a leaseholder at the Broom Factory, an underground haunt for artists and musicians at 2800 Sisson St. since late last year.

Unrelated to the Broom Factory office building in Canton, the Broom Factory Factory (aka Broom Factory) is a warehouse in an industrial area whose Facebook page bills it as a “DIY arts space, recording studio, venue and whatever else.” It’s not zoned or permitted as a venue or club, so the events that have occurred there—featuring DJs, rappers, and other musicians, often in a deliberately cross-racial setting—are not, strictly speaking, “legal.” Police broke up a July 1 show and apparently did not file a report about it (“Broom Factory Raid Prompts Questions,” Mobtown Beat, July 10).

But the events held at the address—which was fitted out as a high-end recording studio in the 1990s and retains a lot of the soundproofing and other amenities—are not necessarily “illegal” either. Just as it is fine for someone to invite friends over to their home to quaff a few and watch the game or listen to music, it’s theoretically fine for the people who rent the Broom Factory to do the same.

It seems to be a question of scale.

Gaddis was charged with disorderly conduct and keeping a disorderly house. It is his first brush with the law in Maryland. He is better known as an Open Society Institute fellow and co-founder of the Charm City Clinic, a McEldery Park-based nonprofit operated by Hopkins students that connects people to medical services.

“I think we want to make it extremely clear that the more valuable work that we’re doing is trying to form a lasting relationship with someone, where we get to the root of their health issues and provide them with a long-term care solution,” Gaddis told the website bmoremedia.com in 2011. “Not just taking someone’s blood pressure, providing a medical service, and that’s it. I think that’s what sets us apart from most other established clinics and health care non-profits.”

Gaddis kept his Broom Factory Factory involvement separate from his nonprofit medical work, not mentioning it on his Facebook page and going by the alias “Andrew Glorious” when dealing with Broom Factory matters.

He says mention of the Broom Factory gathering in some Scapescape promotional materials was done in error and deleted as soon at the Broom Factory folks noticed it.

“We were having a private gathering after scapescape ended Saturday night,” Gaddis says in a Sept. 2 email to a City Paper reporter. “We hired off-duty police to ID at the door (BYOB gathering, so 21+) and ensure that the crowd was orderly. We were not charging admission or serving alcohol.

“The police arrived and informed us that we required permits to host this gathering due to the number of people in attendance. I asked several questions about this but afterwards agreed to tell everyone to leave.

“I was arrested for disorderly conduct on what must have stemmed from a miscommunication with a particular officer about my intentions to comply with making the guests leave. My understanding is that he felt I was not complying with this request.

“I don’t agree with that assessment, and disagree with a number of the statements in the official police report, but I also understand that the officers have a stressful job, and am confident that these miscommunications will be resolved in the calmer environment of a courtroom.”

Gaddis is scheduled for trial on Sept. 19 in District Court on East North Avenue.

The man who connected the Broom Factory folks with the off-duty police was Noah Scialom, a City Paper contributing photographer.

He says he got to the Broom Factory at about 1:30 a.m. and met with the hired cops, who he says he knows well but whose names he won’t divulge because, he says, they asked him not to.

“I . . . set them up at the top of the hill with instructions to not let any cars in, check that everyone was 21-plus and to come get myself or Andrew if anything was needed,” Scialom says.

A half-hour later there were “15 cops standing like storm troopers with their legs spread and hands clasped behind their back,” attendee Angela Devoti wrote in a Facebook post after the incident. Erika Cardona counted eight patrol cars, including an unmarked unit with three officers inside. “The police were brazenly looking for a fight,” Jedediah Mackenzie Weeks wrote on Facebook, “and trying to turn a peaceful scene into a hostile one.”

“My hired officer comes to talk to me, saying that he’s not sure there is anything he can do, there are ranking officers there and they seem to be on a mission,” Scialom says. “We talk for a few seconds and police start walking down the hill, yelling and threatening people with arrest, tasers clicking.”

The heavy show of force left partygoers wondering what the police department’s agenda was. The landlord suggests dark motives.

“I haven’t had contact with the police before,” Douglas Carroll, who bought the building in 2002, says. “These things don’t happen by chance. Either it’s competition for someone or something . . . they want to shut it down.”

Baltimore police spokesperson Lieutenant J. Eric Kowalczyk says a passing patrol officer noticed 40 people outside being loud and disorderly, including one person drinking outside. “So that gave probable cause,” Kowalczyk says. The officer also reported that he could hear loud noise coming from inside the building, a possible violation of the city’s noise ordinance.

The report says Gaddis told the officer that he was only charging guests enough to cover his expenses which, if true, would possibly make Broom Factory at least temporarily into a “bottle club,” triggering more permit requirements.

And here is where things get weird. City Paper asked to talk to the officers and Scialom called back later from his phone and handed it over to a gruff-voiced man with a Bronx accent. That man, who identified himself only as “a friend,” confirmed that he was one of the two security men Broom Factory hired but denied that he was a city cop—active or retired.

Scialom later insisted that the man is indeed a cop. He says they charged $500 for their services (though they returned half of that after the fiasco).

So the questions now are: Are the private-duty police officers really cops? And if they are, did they go through the proper procedure to work the BFF party? And if they did not, what—if anything—will the Baltimore Police Department do about it?

Kowalczyk says that there are two ways for city police officers to be hired for unofficial police business, one through the “Overtime Unit,” wherein citizens request police for events like road races and festivals, and the other, a smaller-scale system in which an officer fills out a form and waits for the venue to be approved through channels. Kowalczyk says several downtown parking garages have used this process to put police inside at night. The vetting process might take more than a week, he says, because the chain of command has to OK it and the venue has to be checked to make sure it is not selling alcohol or is not otherwise a prohibited establishment.

There is no doubt that this process was not followed by the Broom Factory people. Scialom says he was asked to provide security only two days before the event.

On Friday, Sept. 6, Kowalczyk says that after bringing the information to the deputy commissioner for professional standards and accountability, “We have now launched a criminal investigation” to determine if the Broom Factory security detail were impersonating police officers. “We are treating it as a criminal investigation until we learn otherwise.” He added that the criminal investigation encompasses the entire incident, precluding him from commenting on how, for example, a simple stop by a post officer became an eight-car, 12-to-15 officer event.

Like the people who were there to dance, Carroll, the landlord, says he is mystified by the police.

“I though the city was getting more lenient on multiple-use stuff that brings prosperity to the city—and arts and entertainment, that’s what’s going to bring prosperity to the city,” he says. “That Andrew guy, he’s a quality guy. . . they’re bothering him? They ought to do something about the drug addicts who hang out under the 28th Street bridge.”

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