Baltimore City’s newest City State’s Attorney Ivan J. Bates recently sat down with Baltimore Times Staff Writer Ursula V. Battle to discuss tackling violent crime, addressing the needs of older adults, and other topics. In July, Bates defeated two-term incumbent Marilyn Mosby in the Democratic primary and ran unopposed in the November general election.
Q. How do you plan to address the mistrust that exists in some cases when it comes to the citizens of Baltimore and the State’s Attorney Office?
A. I think one of the things we must do is be transparent. I’d love to eventually get a look at the numbers and the data, try to get someone to run the data and give us an analysis and do a data dashboard so that the citizens can pull up what’s happening on the case and see what’s going on for themselves.
I think a lot of it also has to do with educating the community about the criminal justice system. What it really means, how cases come through, and how we could gather evidence. The biggest thing about getting rid of the mistrust is talking to the citizens about the cases. For example, educating them about what it is we really do, what are real good outcomes and what we’re able to do. It also involves explaining the law, how the law changes, what it means to have a change in the law.
Those are some of the types of things I’m really focused on. I think that is how we work to get rid of some of the mistrust in terms of the police working with the police and helping the police to put together good cases so that jurors and other people say, ‘Wow, that was a good case’. That’s how we alleviate some of the mistrust.
Q. How do you plan to work in concert with Baltimore City Police Commissioner Michael Harrison?
A. About a month and a half ago, we went to lunch and talked about a number of things. I explained to him that come January 30, low-level offense quality of life crimes that the current State’s Attorney said they were not going to prosecute, I think it’s very important for us to hold people accountable right then and there. And so, you’ll see that from me.
It’s about having a conversation, but having it on a continuous basis, and letting him know what I’m trying to do to support him and vice versa. I think overall, he’s been a very well-respected police commissioner. I’m the new kid on the block. So, it’s also making sure that I understand the process of everything and to keep him informed and have that discussion. At the of the day, we’re two separate organizations, but we need each other to be successful.
Q. What is your plan to help keep violent, repeat offenders off the street?
A. We have to win those cases against violent repeat offenders. It’s working to build better cases against those violent offenders and holding them accountable. And I think once we’re able to do that, work with the Parole and Probation offices, and make sure we are working with the police to make sure we don’t cut corners, we are doing things the right way.
Q. How do you plan to deal with the issue of drug addiction in Baltimore?
A. I believe we have to try to focus on drug treatment as much as possible. I’ve already begun to have conversations with some of the treatment providers…what they’re offering, what they don’t offer, and hopefully be part of the plan. In the future, my goal is to have everything under one roof and deal with the drug addiction issues, because right now fentanyl is killing people.
Q. What do you believe will be your greatest challenge as the City’s newest State’s Attorney?
A. Managing expectations and rebuilding that office to the level that the citizens deserve. Also, what’s going to be challenging is trying to hold everyone together and working collaboratively…putting aside all the egos, and not trying to go out and embarrass and attack. It’s a heavy lift. There’s a lot that has happened in that office, and we must educate the community about who we are, where we are, what we can realistically do, and continue to focus on the law.
My hope is that because I’ve been a lawyer, a prosecutor, a defense attorney and have my own firm, it won’t be as hard, and not as deep of a learning curve. Some things will be very, very deep, and other things won’t. For me, it’s just making sure I have the best team possible so I can do the best job.
Q. You are an attorney, radio talk show host, Army veteran, and Locus Point resident. In what ways do you feel serving in these capacities and living in this area has helped prepare you to serve as State’s Attorney for Baltimore?
A. Having been a former prosecutor helps me to understand the office, serving as a radio talk show host, I understand what people are saying, having been a veteran helped me with leadership, and being an attorney gives me the necessary skill set. Before I lived in Locus Point, I lived in Reservoir Hill. Living in different areas…especially racially diverse areas helped me to better understand the entire community.
I think understanding those areas and understanding what people really care about helps me tremendously. They just want you to be honest, and work hard for them.
Q. How will you make the transition from serving as an attorney to becoming State’s Attorney?
A. The biggest thing is to change the handling of my practice from me to my law partner. But it’s still managing people like I do here. It’s still having a vision like I do here. It will be some sort of a change, but he I’m going to miss my friends…miss the people who have become my family over all these years.
Q. You were very close to your Aunt Edna who was a senior citizen. Can you talk about your efforts concerning seniors?
A. One of the biggest things I did besides going to all the older adult buildings, was that I wrote a plan…a prosecution plan that talked about focusing on older adults, and how they’re victims of certain crimes and making sure they have those wraparound services they need, making sure that we focus on those issues where they’ve been victimized, and to make sure you hold people accountable. So that’s something that’s important to me because we wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them.
Q. You were inspired by Justice Thurgood Marshall. Can you talk about being inspired by Thurgood Marshall and being elected State’s Attorney in his hometown of Baltimore?
A. The way he carried himself…his intellect… it’s quiet at times and very lonely, but he was able to take that and use that to do what he needed to do to fight for his own people to be fair and hold on to his own integrity. That, to me, is something that is very important.
Q. What will your Cabinet look like?
A. I’m still trying to figure all that out. But one of the things I’m trying to focus on, is that I want people who’ve been prosecutors, and if they haven’t been a prosecutor before, that they have some specific skill sets that is needed by the State’s Attorney’s Office. It’s still a work in progress.
Q. Is there anything else you would like to add?
A. It’s a lot of work. I’m trying to meet as many people as I can and talk to as many people as I can to do the things I need to do so that I can hopefully hit the ground running. I’m looking forward to having a chance to be the State’s Attorney for the citizens of Baltimore.