By Mike Ramey
Let me start off this column by saying that I have covered more than a few ‘police action deaths’ during my tenure as a crime reporter. I have seen and witnessed the painstaking detail that police put into such investigations before AND after they send their findings to prosecutors, the grand jury, and the feds. True, I live in a different city than Baltimore, Maryland. However, the truth is just as much the truth in my city as it is in that city.
Case in point: Here in my neck of the woods, we recently had the case of a cop who killed and maimed several people while he was driving drunk on duty. It took about three years to resolve. The cop was white, and the victims were white. The cop simply ran over the victims with his squad car while they were parked at a stop light. The families of the victims worked that incident like it was a full time job. The police union paid for the legal representation of the officer in question. Some of the internal evidence in the case was mishandled. Some higher ups were demoted over the incident.
Justice eventually prevailed, as during the time the officer was on suspension AND bail from the first incident I mentioned, he was arrested AGAIN for drunk driving–in a nearby jurisdiction. He cried like a baby when cops from another agency arrested him for DWI (driving while intoxicated) AND were unsympathetic when the drunk cop begged them to let him go and that he would ‘get help for his alcohol problem.’ These cops slapped the cuffs on him, and took him to the lockup.
Needless to say–even with a change of venue–the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department had to watch their officer convicted AND sentenced to from 3 to 12 years in prison for his on duty crimes against the public. There are currently other lawsuits pending. No, this won’t bring back the dead, nor heal the injured…but it illustrates that there are cops out there who DO wrong, and are punished by the courts.
It also illustrates that there are upright cops who WILL NOT tolerate wayward cops. A small memorial graces the death scene, to this day, and it’s not too far from my home.
‘Police action deaths’ are filled with emotion, constant questions, sleepless nights and agonizing days for all involved from the press/media to the family of the victim. Sadly, it doesn’t change one key fact of the issue: Someone IS dead, and is not going to be able to answer questions as to ‘what happened’ to end their life. That’s the job of the evidence, the video tape, the investigators and the courts. Ultimately, the courts is where the goodness (or badness) of a legal issue has to be settled. Not in the streets, but in the courts.
The Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby made this quite clear on May 1st with a stunning announcement regarding the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody on April 12th. She called it, as the evidence laid it out: A botched arrest (which she said should NOT have taken place), cops not following established practices involving a police paddy wagon transport of a prisoner, and warrants issued for six officers associated with Gray’s death. The charges ranging from second degree murder to assault. Among the six cops sought for arrest were the driver of the paddy wagon, a police lieutenant and a female officer. It’s going to take a long time for this process to unfold.
What is the point that I’m trying to make? Even when the victims are white, many–from the Statehouse to the courthouse–have a hard time believing that the police are capable of doing wrong. A cop ‘who crosses the behavior line’ gets more respect and sympathy than a politician, a school teacher, or even a minister who has ‘done wrong’. As a matter of fact, if the cop is white, and the victim is a person of color, it seems that public opinion is ‘shaded’. If liberals and conservatives care for justice more than party labels and raising funds for pet causes based upon what is happening on the streets of our cities, then there should be ‘no more Freddie Grays’.
But…didn’t we hear this said when Rodney King was arrested by the police and ‘that video’ surfaced about 20 years ago? Black folks understand that there were promises made about ‘reforming’ police departments after the King incident. However, it seems that we have come back to the same old pop stand on the issue of police brutality and African Americans, Mexican Americans, Japanese Americans and Native Americans.
Yes, and even white Americans. Shocking as it may seem, there have been young white boys and girls that have had their lives wrecked by overreaching cops, deputies, and even national guardsmen (Does May 4th, 1970 at Kent State University ring a bell)?
Hopefully, the death of Freddie Gray will lead to some real and lasting change in the law enforcement community regarding how citizens are treated while in police custody. There are some who believe that the rioting that has taken place in Baltimore is ‘overblown’. However, there are those among us who remember the riots from the sixties; who remember law enforcement getting out of line with people of color back then. Some of us call the current unrest in various parts of the country ‘overdue’.
Yes, young people should not get involved with crime of any type. Yes, there have been those who have not learned the lesson about staying away from illegal activities. Mankind won’t be put in order until the return of Jesus Christ. However, until He does return, a ride in the back of a paddy wagon–IF one is arrested for breaking the law should NOT be determined by ANYONE to be a ‘last ride’.
This is not only common sense…this is true justice and a proper memorial for Freddie Gray.
Mike Ramey is a Gangs and Media Consultant, and a Minister who lives in Indianapolis, Indiana. Emails are always welcomed to firstname.lastname@example.org . © 2015 Mike Ramey/Barnstorm Communications.