Over one hundred and fifty downtown Baltimore businesses have been looted, vandalized, and/or burned to the ground over protests resulting from the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody. And while the evidence certainly points towards use of police brutality during the arrest, the violence is nothing compared with what’s to soon follow.
Looking at the facts of the case, the incident itself tells us all we need to know. According to the media outlet Mother Jones, which has interviewed several eye witnesses, Freddie Gray saw four police officers approaching on bicycle and he took off running. The keyword there is “running”, as in- something you cannot do with a spine that was found to be almost 70% severed. The police have also admitted that Gray fled so this is indisputable; Gray was in sound physical condition when this incident started and he wasn’t thirty minutes later.
However, the first thing we hear from the Baltimore Police Department is lies- they claim that Gray was arrested without any use of force. It doesn’t take a class Valedictorian to debunk that one, nor the mayhem that eventually ensued. With the media throwing fuel to the fire, the Baltimore mayor in full “Cover your Ass” mode and a mob of angry Baltimore citizens, a riot was all but inevitable.
All because the lines of communication have failed city-wide due to mistrust, dishonesty and quite frankly, some really lousy people who could care less about their community.
Now, don’t get me wrong here. As a former corrections officer, I fully believe in protecting our own. Being a police officer anywhere is an extremely dangerous profession and when suspects fight back, cops have the right to react with force. Sometimes deadly force. And despite the numerous incidents that have raised questions about police brutality in recent months, our officers have to be able to clearly show that they are not going to stand around and become victims.
Yet that’s exactly what we didn’t see in recent days as teenagers have assaulted police officers on live television; all because of Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake ordered the police to stand down and just watch as rioters destroyed the city. Then Mayor Blake adds insult to injury by lying about the orders. Remember, this is a mayor that held a press conference and publicly promised to hold officers more accountable for these types of incidents one day after Freddie Gray was assaulted. That was seventeen days ago, yet she remains silent as the great city of Baltimore burns to the ground. Hundreds (if not thousands) of lives have been destroyed from this one single incident…all because a leader could not find her voice when it really mattered the most.
The worst part of all is that 100% of this could have been avoided with simple communication. It has been proven effective time and time again that police outreach in impoverished areas does wonders for building some form of initial trust. Mayor Rawlings-Blake could have been a national hero by stepping out to the podium and demanding swift justice for the Gray family, but we have to remember that common sense and politics do not always go hand and hand. This wasn’t about justice for those behind the curtains; it was about saving face for the next re-elections.
If that’s not a lesson in the importance of proper communication, then I don’t know what is. One thing’s for sure though; everyone involved needs to find their voice before this entire nation descends into mayhem.