I remember working as a rookie patrolman in a northeast Colorado medium-sized city in the summer of 1980. I was off duty and at home the night one of our new patrolmen stopped a car full of young intoxicated men who had just left a wedding reception. The cop was going to arrest one of them, a white man, for a public order crime. He told the others they could leave and go home. It was not to be.
Two friends of the drunk, themselves in the fog of extreme inebriation and alcohol-fueled machismo, decided they weren’t going to allow our officer to arrest his man, who had also decided he wasn’t about to go to jail. The fight was on. A backup officer became involved in a struggle to keep control of his firearm (which discharged during the wrestling match), and two highly intoxicated men ended up shot dead. They were American citizens – Latinos.
For the next two years, I lived a cop’s nightmare. The U.S. Department of Justice did an investigation, newspaper reporters from all over Colorado swarmed into town. Members of Congress showed up. We were constantly under the microscope. To appease the angry mob, the rookie officer was charged with Manslaughter in one of the deaths.
(Does any of this sound familiar, given what’s going on in Baltimore?)
A trial jury weighed the physical evidence, witness statements and the totality of the circumstances. The cop was acquitted and resigned from the police department to disappear into oblivion, his life forever changed. I heard he moved to Arizona. Our city became a war zone. There were major disturbances, some of them replete with rocks and bottles thrown at cops. It seemed like everyone we pulled over for traffic violations wanted to fight. Intel information came to us that two cops were to be assassinated in reprisal for the two dead men. One of our own city councilmen said he thought that might be not such a bad idea.
The press corps fed the frenzy. One night a K-9 team found two bombs placed in the basement parking garage of the police building. Had the bombs gone off they would have leveled the entire complex. Our explosives team couldn’t figure out why they didn’t detonate. They were well-made and should have exploded. I was in the building processing a drunk driving arrest when we got the info to evacuate.
Now, thirty-five years later, I’m long retired from police work and safe here at my keyboard. I’m reading about how the big city cops are hesitant to do their jobs, following the arrests of six of Baltimore’s finest in the death of Freddie Gray. I fully understand their thinking. Let’s see a show of hands here. Which police officer wants to get involved in what turns into a violent arrest situation and end up going to prison?
CBSBaltimore has an interesting story up today:
BALTIMORE (WJZ) — City crime spike. A dramatic increase in violence in Baltimore. Dozens of shooting and murders in the last few weeks following the riots last month.
Christie Ileto reports some are concerned police are hesitant to crack down after six officers were charged in the death of Freddie Gray.
No parent should ever have to bury a child, but it’s Vel Hick’s reality.
“He took my baby away from me. That’s my baby,” she said.
Her 33-year-old son Louis is now one of 96 homicides in Baltimore this year–an undercurrent of violence that’s up almost one-third from this time last year…
Terribly tragic. A major American city out of control, ruled by violent criminals? Are they emboldened by the new low-profile approach of law enforcement and fueled by still-sketchy emotional disinformation concerning the circumstances of Freddie Gray’s death? My guess is, yes. I don’t know what really happened in the Gray case. The press corps doesn’t seem to be at all interested in ferreting out the facts of his arrest and publishing them. No. The press corps loves rioting and disorder. That sends ratings through the roof, as people are glued to their televisions, watching their country burn and fall apart.
But it gets worse.
…“People have said its because morale is down, or it’s because the officers were charged. We don’t know that,” said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake…
Oh, yes, you do know that, Madam Mayor. You know damned well why the morale of your police department is in the tank. This is exactly what you wanted. So, you just keep circling your wagons around your extreme left political agenda while the citizens in your city surrender to the barbarians – and the killing goes on. You’re the mayor who ordered your cops to allow “space” for rioters to destroy property in the early days of the trouble. Or have you forgotten that item?
Thanks to Drudge for the link to the CBS story. I know why the citizenry of Baltimore is cowering in the face of violence and chaos. Their cops are under attack, not just in Baltimore – all over the country.
Been there. Done that. Thirty-five years ago. And what these officers today are dealing with is much worse than what I faced.