Yes. Baltimore is angry.
by Chris Campbell
Baltimore’s black community, which makes up two-thirds of the city’s population, has been angry about rampant police abuse -- and, of course, living in what could easily be mistaken for third-world conditions -- for a while now.
Baltimore’s public schools are oversized toilets. Baltimore’s government is deeply corrupted -- and has been for decades. And racial tension, despite some people believing it’s no longer a thing, is as real as the burning building I’m looking at outside my window. But none of this is a secret within the confines of Baltimore city. It’s just not given much attention. But now, as the chaos closes in… and as it starts to hit a little too close to home for many people normally unaffected by such things… Baltimoreans have no choice but to pay heed. In fact, now the whole world is watching.
Unfortunately, the world will see mostly the deconstructive aspects of the anger expressed…
The mainstream media latched onto one event in particular on Saturday. And then they let it ride. Here’s what went down:
I left Saturday’s protest about 30 minutes prior to the crowd making their appearance downtown. When the crowd entered the downtown area, a group of drunken Orioles fans at one bar, named Pickles Pub, decided to try to drown out the noise with a chant of their own: “We don’t care.” And some of the more idiotic of the bunch allegedly started another classy diddy: “F*ck Freddie Gray.”
This, predictably, upset a few people and they stuck around to throw things at the instigators. A few of them fistfought outside of the bar. Some looters got in on the action and stole bottles of liquor. One man even tried for a young girl’s purse.
Not an earmark of a civilized society -- no matter which side you’re standing on. But we strive to remember what really irks us. Well, now there are two things: idiotic people of any color and police brutality. Both are incessant. But police brutality is much easier to hide than idiocy. So we must remain focused…
If Eric Harris is caught on tape yelling, “Oh man, I can’t breathe,” and the officer, who, by pure chance, has his knee pinned down on his esophagus replies: “F*ck your breath!”... you can assume that this happens more than is uploaded on Youtube. And if another cop, this time in Sacramento County, is given paid vacation only after a video surfaces of him stomping a man’s face, beating him with a flashlight, and tasering him… we’re dealing with more than just a few isolated incidents. Especially provided the man’s only offense was asking the police officer to move his car so he could get through.
And if a few other cops can enter West Baltimore, take Freddie Gray on a joyride that, somehow, severed his spinal cord from his neck and killed him… and have no explanation as to how Gray ended up that way… I think we have a problem. “None of the officers,” Deputy Police Commissioner Jerry Rodriguez said, “describe any use of force against Mr. Gray.” That’s simply not true. Gray was writhing in pain and could barely walk when they stuck him in the wagon. There are videos to prove that. Many witnesses saw him folded up like origami on the sidewalk.
“It’s a baffling conundrum,” The Atlantic writes. (No, Atlantic, it’s not.)
Baltimore’s City Paper, our free weekly, interviewed a few men at the protest who wanted to shed light on their anger toward the police. The men told the reporter that many in the BPD, if they cannot find anything on them, will plant guns and drugs as cause for arrest. If true, this goes beyond just physical brutality: police are fabricating felonies to place on the innocent -- degrading their chances of ever becoming a productive member of society. And further instigating tensions between the black community and the police. “This might sound unbelievable,” the author of the article, Edward Ericson writes. “But former city cops say they would not put it past some of their former colleagues.”
Take, for example, Malik Jenkins-Bey, a 10-year veteran of the force who left in 2010. He said: “This is a police department that is geared toward Gestapo-type tactics.”
Allow me to invoke the “cockroach effect.”
For every roach you catch in the light, you can safely assume there are hundreds more crawling in the dark. Knock a hole in the wall and behold: Roach city. Well, here’s a hammer. And here’s what the hole reveals: “In the U.S. in 2013 alone,” Tyler Durden of Zero Hedge points out, “there were a minimum of 458 ‘justifiable homicides’ by firearm committed by the U.S. police.” Compare that to the last decade in the UK: police have been involved in 23 police shooting fatalities. And those numbers don’t even scratch the surface of the brutality suffered at the hands of police officers using less-deadly weapons.
If one needs an explanation of how this affects every member of a community, aside from instigating riots that tear down neighborhoods: Every single officer also gulps down tax dollars with paid leave and other costs whenever they’re caught committing these acts.
And speaking of tax dollars…
Between 2011 and 2014, $5.7 million of Baltimore’s tax dollars were paid out to more than 100 victims of police brutality. That’s money that could have been used productively. Maybe even to help revitalize the war-torn areas -- but instead, it is used to sweep police brutality under the rug by paying the victims off. And as you think about those 100 victims, consider the question posed in The Atlantic by Conor Friedersdorf: “What tiny percentage of the unjustly beaten win formal legal judgments?”
We’ll venture to guess these 100 people were a small minority. But, before you think it, these aren’t just black 20-somethings that are getting brutalized. Victims of these cases include, the Baltimore Sun reports, “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,” says the Sun. “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.”
All of these revelations, taken together, certainly beg the question…
How dangerous is it to be a cop in the U.S.?
Must be real dangerous, eh? That’s the only rationale, it would seem, for such excessive use of violence. Forget that most of the deaths by police officer happen while the victim is in a state of complete nonresistance. Forget also that many of those gunned down are unarmed and shot in the back.
One would suspect being a police officer is at least, in the top 10 most dangerous professions. But that’s not true. The death rate for officers, according to data from 2013, is 11.1 per 100,000. Taxi drivers and fishermen have it worse than your average policeman.
I’m not downplaying the profession. There’s dignity in all work -- as long as the work is done with dignity. I show you these statistics only to show that excessive force by a police officer has less to do with self-defense than most people suspect. Here are the last five police officer deaths in the U.S., according to the Officer Down Memorial Page:
April 20, 2015: Deputy dies when his ATV rolls over on top of him while on patrol.
April 12, 2015: Officer dies of heart attack while working out in department gym.
April 10, 2015: Officer dies in head on crash while transporting prisoner.
April 7, 2015: Officer rolls his car while chasing a traffic violator.
April 6, 2015: Officer accidentally shot and killed on firing range.
Meanwhile, as part of the government’s 1033 military surplus program, 17,000 police departments have, WND reports, “been given $4.2 billion worth of equipment ranging from Blackhawk helicopters and battering rams to explosives, body armor and night vision.”
All for your safety. Something isn’t right… And I smell smoke. Oh yeah, that’s right... Baltimore is on fire right outside my window.
Chris Campbell is managing editor of Laissez Faire Today. © 2015 Laissez Faire Books, LLC