Thursday, August 13, 2015

A Former Baltimore Cop Makes Clear Why Police Can't Properly Serve Their Community

When was it all over for Freddie Gray? Before he was born? Before his
mother met his father? Before the house he lived in as a child was painted?

Freddie Gray never had a chance. From an early age, he and his siblings had brain damage from the lead paint in their house.
Before Freddie Gray was injured in police custody last month, before he died and this city was plunged into rioting, his life was defined by failures in the classroom, run-ins with the law and an inability to focus on anything for very long.
Many of those problems began when he was a child and living in this house, according to a 2008 lead-poisoning lawsuit filed by Gray and his siblings against the property owner. The suit resulted in an undisclosed settlement.
Reports of Gray’s history with lead come at a time when the city and nation are still trying to understand the full ramifications of lead poisoning. Advocates and studies say it can diminish cognitive function, increase aggression and ultimately exacerbate the cycle of poverty that is already exceedingly difficult to break.
If, as claimed in the video below by a former Baltimore cop, the job of a policeman in Baltimore was to "make your numbers," -- arrest enough people as possible on serious charges -- then likely Freddie Gray's life, or at least his luck, was over the day he was born.

Beyond the squalor of the environment or the misbegotten notion of what policing should, or could, be, what most struck me in the video was that Mike Wood, the cop in the video, had little choice if he was to stay employed as a cop in Baltimore. Keep your numbers of arrests up or, well, just keep them up. That was your job. So after he was assigned a post in an upscale white neighborhood -- what many of us would consider a cushy job -- he was actually in a serious predicament. There was nobody to arrest!

So he went a few blocks away into a beaten-down black neighborhood and made his numbers. How? This was the other thing that was unbelievably disturbing. Talking about interactions with citizens, Mike said, "See, that's even a misnomer in itself, that you walk the beat and talk to citizens, no one does that. I would try to be friendly with people, but really the reality is, if I spent an hour talking to a citizen, that's an hour everyone viewed I should have been out getting statistics," which translated into arrests on serious charges, mostly drugs and guns. What really drove the point home was when Mike said, "What [people on the street] fear most is that we can get away with anything we choose to get away with."

I got the distinct impression -- you will, too -- that Mike wanted to do community policing and had ideas of how it might work, but he didn't seriously feel there was any chance of it happening in Freddie Gray's world any time soon.

Mike Wood, retired early, at 24, because of a shoulder injury. The police commissioner, Anthony Batts, brought in from Oakland, California, to initiate a community policing model was fired weeks after Freddie Gray's death. And on it goes.

Black lives matter. Keep saying it. Maybe someday they will.

Note. Anthony Batts was fired ten weeks after the Freddie Gray murder, not "weeks." Oops.

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