Since I am from and currently live in Baltimore, the upheaval surrounding the death of Freddie Gray literally hits home for me. I’m no stranger to the high level of crime, drug use and violence of Baltimore. As a matter of fact, I’m quite desensitized to much of this stuff, sadly. Seeing what we call a heroine zombie or someone doing the “dope feign lean” is perfectly normal and happens quite frequently (think Bernie from Weekend at Bernie’s). Similarly just about every night the local news covers stories surrounding gang violence, a homicide(s) or multiple shootings (this is why I don’t watch the news that much). And honestly, stories about police brutality are quite commonplace as well.
Unfortunately, during the protests of Freddie Gray’s death this past Saturday, a few young people got violent and some businesses were vandalized around the downtown area. Oriole Park at Camden Yards, which was hosting a game between the Orioles and the Red Sox at the time, was also put on lock down for a short period of time until the police were able to get the crowd under control.
Overall, I heard 35 people were arrested. All week there have been peaceful protests in Baltimore, but it only takes a few idiots to ruin everything. The people of Baltimore are really upset and angry about this, and we sincerely hope that the rest of the country doesn’t think that the people who got violent are representative of our great city. Because they absolutely are not. There were over 2,000 protesters and about 100 of them got out of control — that’s five percent. Moreover, some of the protesters intervened in the violence and the Baltimore City Police Commissioner even credited them with helping to neutralize the troublemakers. Of course the media didn’t cover that, but please know that they are the ones who represent Baltimore.
These protests are about bringing awareness to an issue that is clearly a big problem in our country: police brutality. People are fed up with it. We want answers, we want justice, we want accountability, we want more transparency and we want to be able to trust the police — not fear them. As I said, the Baltimore City Police Department has quite a long history of allegations of police brutality. This isn’t anything new, but with all the attention surrounding similar incidents of police brutality, the death of Freddie Gray is rightfully getting national attention. I don’t know if any of you watched the video of Freddie Gray’s arrest, but it is very difficult to watch. The man was clearly in excruciating pain as the police were trying to get him into the back of the police van. This seems to be a case of complete neglect by the officers involved.
Someone very close to me was the victim of police brutality once. And of course, when we tried to get the name of the officer who beat him up while he was chained to a wall (both ankle and wrist cuffs), the police department conveniently didn’t have his name — or the names of any of the officers on duty that night. Not surprisingly, nothing was ever done about this. So I sympathize with the family of Freddie Gray. But at least my relative is still alive. As I type this Freddie Gray’s family is laying him to rest.
It’s important to note that this issue is fairly complicated. Police officers have a very difficult job. It is extremely dangerous, largely thankless and they have to put up with a lot of bullshit. A friend of mine is a nurse and she said that they frequently get people sent to the hospital after they were arrested because the perpetrators complained of pain or illness, when in fact there is absolutely nothing wrong with them. But the police have to get them medical attention regardless of whether they think the person is being truthful or not (which is why I said that Freddie Gray’s death appears to be a case of severe neglect).
I think most people understand and appreciate how hard it is to be a police officer, and they know that most police officers are good people. The issue is that when police officers abuse their power or cause someone undue harm, there rarely seems to be accountability. The police department covers it up (or tries to) and does everything it can to make it look as if the officer(s) did nothing wrong. And this is where the public frustration lies. It is also quite obvious (to me, at least) that black males are disproportionately victims of police brutality.
While I will withhold final judgement regarding the Freddie Gray case until all the facts are known, it is blatantly obvious that changes need to be made within police departments all over the country so that these kinds of incidences happen less frequently. As I already said, there needs to be more accountability, transparency, and respect for the law that the officers are supposed to uphold. And maybe police officers need better training (that certainly seems to be the case). I’m sure there are many ways to improve the relationship between the police department and the community it is supposed to protect. And whether police departments like it or not, the onus is on them to take the necessary steps to begin rebuilding trust and respect with their communities.
R.I.P. Freddie Gray.