(CNSNews.com) - When asked how he plans to ensure racial equality, Democratic presidential candidate and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley said Monday that he decriminalized marijuana, “banned the box” for those with criminal records seeking state employment, and reduced the number of fatal police-involved shootings.
“I drove down fatal police-involved shootings to three of their four lowest years in Baltimore history, and as governor, I restored voting rights to 52,000 people. I ... decriminalized the possession of marijuana. I banned the box on people who are applying for state employment,” O’Malley said during the Democratic presidential town hall in Des Moines, Iowa on Monday.
An audience member asked, “How are you planning to ensure racial equality when your history in office contradicts your current platform to fight structural racism?”
“In 1999, our city of Baltimore had become the most violent, the most addicted, and the most abandoned city in America, and when few other people would step up who could bring us together and turn it around, I did,” said O’Malley.
“That year and for about the 12 years leading up to that point, we were burying over 300 young, poor, black men every single year, and yes, black lives matter,” he added.
“I told the people of my city: look, we do not have to accept the reality of 24/7 drug dealer occupation over our poor neighborhood,” he said. “When you call from a poor neighborhood for police service, they should call respond the same way they do in wealthier neighborhoods - black and white.”
O’Malley said as mayor of Baltimore he was able to close down open-air drug markets and as governor, he continued to look for ways to “save and redeem lives.”
“There are a lot of things we got right. There were a lot of things that we saved. I promised to improve how we police the police. We actually did start closing down open air drug markets, and in the course of my executive service - both as mayor and as a governor - I never stopped searching for the things that work so we can do more of them to save and redeem lives and the things that don’t work so we can stop doing them,” said O’Malley.
“So we greatly increased drug treatment, saved hundreds and hundreds of lives from overdose deaths. We started tracking discourtesy, excessive force,” he said.
"I drove down fatal police-involved shootings to three of their four lowest years in Baltimore history, and as governor, I restored voting rights to 52,000 people. I repealed as a crime, decriminalized the possession of marijuana,” he added.
O’Malley said he also “banned the box,” which removes the criminal history conviction question from job applications for those seeking state employment. That means employers must consider a job applicant’s qualifications first without the stigma of a criminal conviction. The background check inquiry is delayed until further in the hiring process. Maryland is one of 19 states to enact the policy.
“I banned the box on people who are applying for state employment, and not the first time, not the second time, but the third time by bringing people together, including a few Republican votes, I made my state the first state south of the Mason-Dixon line to repeal the death penalty in America,” said O’Malley.