Ganesha Martin

Ganesha Martin    Artist and interviewer: C. Harvey

Ganesha Martin

Artist and interviewer: C. Harvey

I’m originally from Texas and I’d like to say that destiny brought me to Baltimore. My very first day in Baltimore, I meant someone who thought I’d be the right person for a position at the mayor’s office. I intended to stay for one year and return to practicing law, but I fell in love with the work and the city. Five years later, I’m still here! I started as a Special Assistant to the Mayor and it allowed me to see and experience the entire city. I saw everything the city stood for, like it’s resiliency, heart, and it’s potential to be a great city like I know we are. From there I became the Assistant Deputy Mayor where I oversaw six agencies, one of which was the police department. Shortly thereafter, I was asked to be the Chief of Staff to the Police Commissioner which I did for about two years. In the interim, I was the acting legislative director and before returning from Annapolis, I told the then police commissioner there needed to be a singular and strategic focus on how we engage our communities. We created the Bureau of Community Engagement and the next day Freddie Gray died.

I am now the Chief of the Department of Justice Compliance and Accountability/External Affairs at the Baltimore Police Department, and I’ve been in the position for a year and a half. After the Freddie Gray incident the city was broken wide open. An awakening across the entire city happened and collectively it set in that no matter your race, gender, or sexual orientation, we are all in this together. It intensified for me and I felt like I had to fix everything right then and there. We added external affairs to my duties because we knew that along with reform, we needed to repair the relationship between the Baltimore City Police Department and the communities they are sworn to protect and serve. The community voice must be heard and become a part of the new policies and reform set forward. After speaking with Commissioner Davis, this division was created to bring full time focus and staff working on reform in the BPD.

After the DOJ report, we recognized that the manner in which BPD makes its stops can be unconstitutional and needed a million dollar brain to tackle this. I brought on Baltimore Corps Fellow, Sarah Ritter, to work on the data analysis side of police stops. She is compassionate, energetic, smart, and thoughtful in all the right ways. She is working completely on the subject matter of police stops, which touches on: police training, supervision, community engagement, and officer safety. What Sarah and I are trying to do is take the data on police stops further than telling officers to police constitutionally, but really figure out what does that actually mean. The only way we are going to have sustainable change in Baltimore City is by taking into consideration the human beings that are a part of the system. The work that Baltimore Corps does around race and equity was a major factor of choosing a Fellow. I believe that we are going to be the first police department in the United States to have a Chief Equity Officer whose sole duty is to overlay social justice and equity concepts over the reforms made here at the police department. People lose sight of the fact that when we create new policy or program, the police have to understand it and it has to speak to both the experiences of police and the people they are policing.