Focus On The War More Than The Battles
Although I was relieved by the indictment of the officers who held Freddie Gray before his death, I haven’t exhaled. I know that it will be very challenging for those charges to stick. I’ve been told that it would have been better that Gray had his hands up begging not to shoot, but white supremacy is a bit more sophisticated in states like Maryland. Reasonable doubt of excessive force and negligence that killed Gray is a matter of loopholes, so we should prepare for the worst.
But let us say that these cops were made an example of for using excessive force on a civilian, would this conviction make officers tamper their aggression? I was also told that if officers are hesitant in the streets, then civilians will capitalize by becoming more disrespectful, “taunting” them with smartphones creating a hostile environment. Consequently, some may second-guess their every move (disorderly conduct is a very broad charge).
As I empathize with law enforcers working in antagonistic environments, I have to ask: what is wrong with police officers using less force with civilians? Especially if you cite the offense for which you’re arresting, would it matter if you’re being recorded? If a civilian claims they are injured, or cant BREATHE, does it affect your performance to seek immediate medical attention? A job that requires you to interact with people on a daily basis requires high-level critical thinking skills. I know that some cops are just as ignorant as the folks that the arrest. But I’d like to believe that the competent cops really wouldn’t be greatly affected by video recording and reduction of usage of physical force, if they’ve always relied on higher order thinking skills.
Freddie Gray is not the first individual to die from spinal injuries from an arrest in Baltimore. Ten years ago, Dondi Johnson was arrested for public urination and loaded into a police van where he fell from a “rough ride”. Two weeks later, he succumbed to spinal injuries. Let us highlight these “rough rides” as acts of negligence that are punishable.
Since education is my background, I wondered how my work environment would change if there was a new superintendent who pushed an agenda of frequent classroom observations. From my experience, the teachers who fretted were the slackers because they knew that they may not meet the expectations of the observers. However, qualified teachers continued their teaching practices during observations because they knew that they were effectively reaching their students. Law enforcers who are truly protecting and serving their community should not doubt how they practice their daily duties, even when recorded.
If no one is imprisoned for the death of Freddie Gray, let Baltimore continually protest through policy. Push for body cams and police van cams. There’s a Ferguson action committee that published concrete demands on fergusonaction.com of how to hold law enforcement more accountable for its brutality since the killing of Michael Brown. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Which legal experts and policy makers will assist the black political action committees of Baltimore?
Elections for critical positions like mayor and city councilmen will happen in Baltimore next year. If a political action committee can articulate its demands like Ferguson, city officials will have to be accountable for the acknowledgement and execution of those demands. Whether you’re team MLK or team Malcolm X, lets all agree that action starts now. The establishments that burned in Baltimore were not black-owned.
As the city rebuilds physically, there also needs to be spiritual growth in the black collective of the town as well as growth in the number of black-owned business. If we do not win the battle of the conviction of these officers, there’s still a war to fight and win concerning the value of black lives and their RIGHTS to grow and thrive within their communities.