Own It

The mayor of Baltimore needs to stop equivocating

By Jim Glennon  |   May 4, 2015

Cops are always the bad guys. I’m getting real tired of this same old song. Real tired. I’ve written about it many, many times.

Law enforcement officers in Baltimore have been described as heartless, brutal, racists, and murderers. People who have no regard for human lives. They are characterized as robotic soulless creatures who live to hurt others and abuse their authority.

We’re used to hearing such things about our profession from media analysts, pundits, activists, and the clueless protesters who mimic nonsense they came across in chat rooms or on the tube. It’s irritating and provocative. It can also be painful and seditious. But it’s mostly background noise.

It’s much different when the words come out of the mouths of people in positions of real authority. How much damage do their words cause?

“While we try to make sure that [protesters] were protected from the cars and other things that were going on, we also gave those who wished to destroy space to do that as well.” Those words came out of the mouth and into a microphone from Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake during a press conference.

She said those words were taken out of context. But read her statement again as it is an exact quote. What do you read? More importantly: What did the people on the streets hear?

The mayor is showing respect to protesters and, as it was taken, encouraging them to become rioters, looters and “thugs.” It certainly sounds as though she is giving the OK to vandalism and destruction.

Her supporters say that’s preposterous.

After all hell broke loose when those “wishing to destroy” actually destroyed, the mayor said: “What we see tonight … is very disturbing. It is very clear that there’s a difference between what we saw last week between the peaceful protests … and the thugs, who only want to incite violence and destroy our city. I’m a life-long resident of Baltimore. Too many generations have spent their lives building up this city to have it destroyed by thugs, who in a very senseless way are trying to tear down what so many have fought for.”

She took a stand! She called it as she saw it. Until …

Apparently “thugs” and their supporters were offended and so she took to Twitter: “I wanted to clarify my comments on ‘thugs.’ When you speak out of frustration and anger, one can say things in a way that you don’t mean,” she wrote. “That night we saw misguided young people who need to be held accountable, but who also need support. And my comments then didn’t convey that.”

She certainly has a healthy respect for the fire-setters, the rock throwers who injured more than 20 police officers and the looters who are now rich with alcohol, prescription meds, clothing and Nike Air Jordans. But again, they are misguided youths who need emotional support.

Blame the Cops
Now let’s examine the Mayor’s words when it comes to the police: “We know that the vast majority of the men and women of the Baltimore City Police Department serve our city with pride, with courage, with honor, and with distinction.”

That sounds like she’s saying that she supports the vast majority of the police officers doesn’t it? That’s what I though until, she used that all-important word but:

“But, to those of you who want to engage in brutality, misconduct, racism and corruption, let me be clear: There is no place for you in the Baltimore City Police Department.” She went on and pledged to “continue to be relentless in changing the culture of the police department.”

The culture? A corrupt, brutal, and racist organizational culture doesn’t sound like there are just a few bad apples does it? That doesn’t seem to be a department where the “vast majority” of officers are honorable.

So to sum up: Arsonists, thieves and those who assault the police are misguided young people and the officers of the Baltimore Police Department are contributors to a culture overrun with “brutality, misconduct, racism and corruption.”

Police officers aren’t perfect. How could they be? They work in a cesspool. They deal with the worst of the worst in society: criminals, perverts, psychotics, murderers, rapists and other dregs. They hold the hands of victims and see the abused excuse the abusers. They show up when regular folk don’t want to deal with whatever it is that made them pick up the phone and dial 911.

And they became jaded, cynical, tired and callous.

They hear the same lies day after day. They are called the vilest of names and aren’t allowed to respond the way every other human being alive would respond. They deliver tickets, warrants—and the worst of terrible news.

But they still go to work and try to protect the innocent. They die running into burning buildings, drown jumping into rivers and are attacked over 50,000 times a year.

The charges against the six Baltimore police officers are vindication for the cop haters. Those of us who understand the law know that many of those charges are contrary to both common sense and the rule of law.

But the mayor, the leader of the city that is burning and in economic despair blames all of it on the cops.

I’ll be the first to agree that something went terribly wrong in the case of Freddie Gray. It seems as though there were mistakes made. They may even rise to the level of negligence.

Conclusion
The massive problems in areas of Baltimore have been ignored by politicians for far too long. But do you see any of them, any of them, taking responsibility? It seems it’s always someone else’s fault …

The mayor should want and certainly needs the respect of her police department. She demands accountability of its members. Maybe she should lead by example?

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Jim Glennon
Lt. Jim Glennon (ret.) is the owner and lead instructor for Calibre Press. He is a third-generation LEO, retired from the Lombard, Ill. PD after 29 years of service. Rising to the rank of lieutenant, he commanded both patrol and the Investigations Unit. In 1998, he was selected as the first Commander of Investigations for the newly formed DuPage County Major Crimes (Homicide) Task Force. He has a BA in Psychology, a Masters in Law Enforcement Justice Administration, is the author of the book Arresting Communication: Essential Interaction Skills for Law Enforcement.