Baltimore Police-Community Relations, Necessary Background

Anyone who isn’t familiar with Baltimore will need some background and perspective to even begin to understand the troubled story unfolding there. The protests and unrest in the city stem from the arrest and death in custody of Freddie Gray, who was buried Monday. But the underlying grievances have a long history. 

Here are two columns I recommend:

JAMIE STIEHM, a former Baltimore Sun reporter, now writing for Creators Inc. Tuesday, Apr. 28, “Notes From a Baltimore Police Scene.” Updated link: Go to Creators Syndicate and search for Jamie Stiehm.

“It happened in plain sight in Sandtown. “Another City, Another Death in the Public Eye,” said the front-page headline in The New York Times. But Baltimore’s leadership is unusual compared to most cities, with a black woman mayor and a black police commissioner. That means its citizen protests may go beyond black and white. It’s gray, like the victim’s name.”

Ms. Stiehm goes on to recount her own bruising arrest experience some years back in Baltimore, followed by a night in the city lockup.

THOMAS SCHALLER, writing in the Baltimore Sun on Tuesday, Apr. 28, “Why Baltimore Burns For Freddie Gray.”  Read it here.

“Rather, the fact of social protest is prima facie evidence of political disgruntlement, and of an extant imbalance between those who wield power and those subjected to it. When these inequities persist and have no other form of expression, there will be unrest. And in this case, those suffering from Baltimore’s power imbalances are disproportionately black.”

I don’t know where Baltimore goes from here. There’s a lot yet to sort out. I think this latest death by police and the ensuing protests put the economic and racial divides in America on stark display for all to see. I hope we can learn something from this painful time. I hope peace and some semblance of normalcy will soon return to the streets of Baltimore. But I’m afraid for the future of America.

— John Hayden

2 thoughts on “Baltimore Police-Community Relations, Necessary Background

  1. I hope we can learn something too John from this painful time.. Seems Life is cheap in many places around our globe.. And we have forgotten fundamentals in being the most intelligent species on Earth.. We have forgotten our Humanity.. as we have become far from Humane..

    Interesting read John.. from an observer from the UK where our Police face violence.. but only special units are trained with guns.. I think I read a statistic saying that in the USA.. in one month the police had shot and killed more people than had been shot by police since their records began in a 100 yrs.. So Very sad .. that Life is so easily blown away . Worst still when its people who are unarmed ..

    Thank you for this report..


  2. Thank you Sue. It’s good that the ongoing tragedies of police shooting unarmed people has been brought to public attention. However, I think police in America, with a few exceptions, do value life. Many of the police shootings result from a combination of fear, anger, mistakes, failure to follow best practices in making arrests.

    I don’t want to portray police as villains. Most police officers are dismayed by these terrible shootings. Unfortunately, it’s true that we have far too many guns in America, and a culture of violence that makes it too easy for many people to cross into violence in a moment of tension and emotion.

    In the fearsome, surreal trouble on the streets in Baltimore Monday and Tuesday, both police and angry students showed respect for human life and acted with restraint. There were many crimes against property, but relatively few injuries and no deaths.

    In other words, both police and most rioters refrained from attacking human beings. Police suffered a number of injuries, some serious, but they recognized that many of the participants were not criminals but simply angry high school students, and the police tried to avoid inflicting injuries on the crowd. Very few injuries to civilians, and no deaths. This is unusual, and shows that the unrest in the streets may not have been as large scale as has been portrayed. Usually in serious riots, a large number of injuries and some fatalities are reported.


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