28 April 2015

What Part of "Peace Officer" Don't You Get?

Protests in Baltimore were relatively peaceful last night, and now we are getting reports police escalated last night's events by penning up the teenagers who were at the Mondawmin Mall:
After Baltimore police and a crowd of teens clashed near the Mondawmin Mall in northwest Baltimore on Monday afternoon, news reports described the violence as a riot triggered by kids who had been itching for a fight all day. But in interviews with Mother Jones and other media outlets, teachers and parents maintain that police actions inflamed a tense-but-stable situation.


When school let out that afternoon, police were in the area equipped with full riot gear. According to eyewitnesses in the Mondawmin neighborhood, the police were stopping busses and forcing riders, including many students who were trying to get home, to disembark. Cops shut down the local subway stop. They also blockaded roads near the Mondawmin Mall and Frederick Douglass High School, which is across the street from the mall, and essentially corralled young people in the area. That is, they did not allow the after-school crowd to disperse.

Meghann Harris, a teacher at a nearby school, described on Facebook what happened:
Police were forcing busses to stop and unload all their passengers. Then, [Frederick Douglass High School] students, in huge herds, were trying to leave on various busses but couldn't catch any because they were all shut down. No kids were yet around except about 20, who looked like they were waiting for police to do something. The cops, on the other hand, were in full riot gear, marching toward any small social clique of students…It looked as if there were hundreds of cops.
The kids were "standing around in groups of 3-4," Harris said in a Facebook message to Mother Jones. "They weren't doing anything. No rock throwing, nothing…The cops started marching toward groups of kids who were just milling about."

A teacher at Douglass High School, who asked not to be identified, tells a similar story: "When school was winding down, many students were leaving early with their parents or of their own accord." Those who didn't depart early, she says, were stranded. Many of the students still at school at that point, she notes, wanted to get out of the area and avoid any Purge-like violence. Some were requesting rides home from teachers. But by now, it was difficult to leave the neighborhood. "I rode with another teacher home," this teacher recalls, "and we had to route our travel around the police in riot gear blocking the road… The majority of my students thought what was going to happen was stupid or were frightened at the idea. Very few seemed to want to participate in 'the purge.'"

A parent who picked up his children from a nearby elementary school, says via Twitter, "The kids stood across from the police and looked like they were asking them 'why can't we get on the buses' but the police were just gazing…Majority of those kids aren't from around that neighborhood. They NEED those buses and trains in order to get home." He continued: "If they would've let them children go home, yesterday wouldn't have even turned out like that."

Meg Gibson, another Baltimore teacher, described a similar scene to Gawker: "The riot police were already at the bus stop on the other side of the mall, turning buses that transport the students away, not allowing students to board. They were waiting for the kids.…Those kids were set up, they were treated like criminals before the first brick was thrown." With police unloading busses, and with the nearby metro station shut down, there were few ways for students to clear out.


It is the job of police to maintain the peace. It is why they sometimes are called peace officers.

The police are the professionals in this situation, and they must act professionally.

The expectation of professionalism is why they are get to use a gun, a badge, and tools like tear gas and pepper spray.

It means, for example, that they need to use the appropriate tools to manage a situation, and not, for example, throw bricks back at the protesters:
We're about to look now. Here's a video of police throwing rocks back at protesters:

This is not in indicator of professionalism in a police force.

The rioting last night was foreseeable given the behavior of the police.

They presented themselves in an overly confrontational way to teenagers, they then made impossible for people to leave the area.

While the behavior of the protesters is reprehensible, the behavior of the police can only be described as extreme malpractice.

There are a number of senior cops on the Baltimore PD who needs to be fired over this.


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