Thursday, April 23, 2015

#FreddieGray

When I first saw the video of slack-legged Freddie Gray put in the back of a police van on a local news station site I didn't even pause to Facebook. Injuries in custody, it's right there in my most recent post, how common it is:
"An ACLU report said that 109 people in Maryland died after police encounters between 2010 and 2014."  $5.7 million in payouts in just four years
These incidents happen every few days in the city. 
A few recapped by the Atlantic:
Victims include a 15-year-old boy riding a dirt bike, a 26-year-old pregnant accountant who had witnessed a beating, a 50-year-old woman selling church raffle tickets, a 65-year-old church deacon rolling a cigarette and an 87-year-old grandmother aiding her wounded grandson. Those cases detail a frightful human toll. Officers have battered dozens of residents who suffered broken bones — jaws, noses, arms, legs, ankles — head trauma, organ failure, and even death, coming during questionable arrests. Some residents were beaten while handcuffed; others were thrown to the pavement.

A week later police still don't have an explanation as to why he was stopped in the first place. And that's not unusual. But a DOJ probe and CNN descending? Unusual.

Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Walter Scott, and now Freddie Gray, and long-neglected Baltimore, getting Malaysian-plane levels of attention.

Gray, too, is an innocent victim, young, healthy.  The police's only given reason for stopping him is that he had a knife in his pocket. Ans while it's true certain kinds of knives, concealed switchblades and Bowie knives, are illegal to carry in MD, as is wielding them with an attempt to harm. But how would police know if he was carrying an illegal-type knife unless they had x-ray vision? And the knife being in his pocket itself is proof of no threat.

And he was innocent in that he'd never been found guilty of anything. He had some petty narcotics charges on the Judiciary Case Search, but if anything they shows a history of harassment by the police and courts. Narcotics charges against him appear to have been nol pros'd, and in one case the state delayed four times and left as 'STET' charges. Have you heard of those? Baltimore city loves them, it's where the state won't try a case but won't drop the charges, either,* keeping them on someone's record where they can't be expunged for three years, making legitimate employment nearly impossible for the accused.

And, of course, video. Now we have the man who filmed it, Kevin Moore, who said he was woken up by the sound of a Taser and screaming,* and saw Gray "folded up like a crab or a piece of origami."

Fern Shen, Baltimore Brew

On the national level, Baltimore has that "Wire" angle, and a twist on the race narrative, too. Majority-black city, mayor, city council. Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's been mayor long enough to have been able to improve a lot, should she have been willing: approve body cameras, give the citizen review board power to deliver penalties, use CitiStat to increase transparency and confidence. But the beatings, payouts and secrecy under SRB have gotten worse. Justice is no match for the entrenched self-dealings, favor system and torpor of our local government.

And now Larry Hogan's sending in the state troopers at the request of the mayor.  It's all a made-for-CNN drama, all tragic and generally depressing.

But maybe the pressure of national and international coverage and the DOJ's involvement could finally effect some real hope and change around here. Perhaps a pleasant side effect of having a Republican governor might be no pussyfooting around when it comes to setting Baltimore city's affairs to order. Maybe we'll even get some of that court-ordered external monitoring that's been working so well in Oakland-- no citizen has been shot to death by police there in 18 months. Maybe it might could happen!


*When people ask why I dislike O'Malley, this is why. He brought us stop and frisk which clogged up the courts and took time away from serious cases, nol prossing, STET-ing, ruining people's records. And crime went up.




1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post! I re-posted on FB for all of my friends who do not understand what is going on and why. This is a succinct, intelligent summation of the current and underlying causes for the anger and (peaceful) protests.