Scheduled to air nation-wide on HBO Nov.20 is the documentary “Baltimore Rising”. Directed by “The Wire” actress Sonja Sohn, the story focuses on the aftermath of the death of Freddie Gray. The trailor highlights the changes within the police force, the failure of the media to accurately cover the problems in the black communities, the rising tensions between police and civilians, and the formation of Black Lives Matter.
Though the documentary is obviously from the point of view of BLM sympathizers, there may be some legitimacy behind the accusations of Baltimore’s police force being less than sub par.
In a You Tube video that followed the documentary trailer, a journalist from Slate Magazine interviews Mike Wood, who served on the Baltimore police force from 2003 to 2014. He retired because he felt that he was hurting people more than helping them, and since then he has been outspoken about the problems in Baltimore. Here are some of the highlights from the interview:
“That’s even a misnomer in itself, that you ‘walk the beat’ and talk to citizens. No one does that. I would try to be friendly to people, but really the reality is, if I spent an hour talking to a citizen, that was an hour everyone viewed I should have been out getting statistics. (drugs, felonies, guns). There is no walking and talking to the community.”
“That’s what you do in policing. You’re trying to do what keeps you out of trouble from all the problems that are internal…I was never afraid of the streets. I was more afraid of other officers.”
“What they (the citizens) fear is that we (cops) can get away with whatever we choose to get away with. The laws are to the point that anybody can be locked up for pretty much anything.”
“Those (cops) are the ones that cross the line more – the ones that are afraid. And that’s our standard in policing – fear. If you’re afraid, you can do whatever you want. That’s the legal standard.”
“A lot of it (fear and anger) gets built up into bitterness. They (cops) generally don’t go and work out and deflate themselves. Instead, they’ll get angry at the citizens, get further into that ‘us vs. them’, start the infamous drinking problem that you here about…it is a stressful thing.
“If we actually did a community policing model, designed to decentralize power, so that a patrol officer can take care of things in his or her responsibility area…(talks about cleaning up the neighborhood)…then for that day of work, instead of locking people up, I came out with the neighborhood and did this, because that would have some kind of improvement over all.”
“What we have to do is, we have to start thinking about what are we actually doing, what are our goals? If our goals are to reduce violent crime, we have to change our metrics. Right now our metric is ‘arrest’. Who’s in charge of these metrics? It’s command, and it’s politicians. So we have to change the metric to ‘crime reduction’, to ‘justice’, to ‘problem solving’. So that would be a continual metric, where you would always have something to do, where you would always improve the community, because you should be focused on improving your post, not only locking up as many people as possible during your post. If you’re taking their freedom away, how are you not going to be their enemy?”
If the police system in Baltimore is in fact corrupt, the answer is not rioting, nor federal intervention. As Wood says in his interview, there needs to be a change in mentality. For that to happen, the citizens and the police need to work together. They need to end the ‘us vs. them’ mentality and work together to really understand each other’s problems and figure out viable solutions.