Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Baltimore Boils Over After Years of Corruption

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The grim reality on the streets and in the neighborhoods of Baltimore currently stem from not simply one incident about police conduct and tactics. The Baltimore Sun last fall provided a lengthy investigation into years of brutality and civil rights violations by law enforcement:

"Over the past four years, more than 100 people have won court judgments or settlements related to allegations of brutality and civil rights violations. 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.

"And in almost every case, prosecutors or judges dismissed the charges against the victims — if charges were filed at all. In an incident that drew headlines recently, charges against a South Baltimore man were dropped after a video showed an officer repeatedly punching him — a beating that led the police commissioner to say he was “shocked.”

"Such beatings, in which the victims are most often African-Americans, carry a hefty cost. They can poison relationships between police and the community, limiting cooperation in the fight against crime, the mayor and police officials say."

Also worth reading, an overflowing crowd attends a meeting, prior to Freddie Gray's death, held by the city and the Department of Justice:

" ... hundreds of Baltimore residents gathered to air grievances over years of harassment, beatings and other mistreatment they say they have endured from city police.

"They turned out for a meeting convened by the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate, at the city's request, complaints about Baltimore's Police Department. When a former San Jose, Calif., police chief hired to lead the meeting told the crowd he wanted to know whether they "trust" the city's police, a woman shouted "No."

"From that point on, dozens of residents — most of them black — inundated federal officials with their assertions that city police have been brutalizing residents with impunity."

More on the years of corruption in law enforcement:

"What's crucial to understand, as Baltimore residents take to the streets in long-simmering frustration, is that their general grievances are valid regardless of how this case plays out. For as in Ferguson, where residents suffered through years of misconduct so egregious that most Americans could scarcely conceive of what was going on, the people of Baltimore are policed by an entity that perpetrates stunning abuses. The difference is that this time we needn't wait for a DOJ report to tell us so. Harrowing evidence has been presented. Yet America hasn't looked." 

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