Friday, May 20, 2022

The Journal of Steffanie Rivers: The Culture of Police Brutality

steffanie rivers
Steffanie Rivers

*The culture of reckless behavior within Baltimore’s police department was a debacle waiting for national attention. 

More than 300 lawsuits have been filed against Baltimore police since 2011 claiming brutality and misconduct. The city settled more than 100 of those cases, paying out nearly $6 million. Freddie Gray was just one of more than 100 people fatally injured while in Baltimore police custody in that same four-year span. Forty percent of those who died were unarmed. Seventy percent of those who died were black. These numbers are indicative of a lack of discipline among the rank and file officers, and a lack of leadership by Baltimore’s police commissioner Anthony Batts. There’s no other reason why this behavior would be allowed to continue.

Maryland State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, assigned to prosecute cases in Baltimore City, had to know about the problem. Before her election to the top spot just three months ago, Mosby spent at least three years working in the same office training other prosecutors. Charging all six of the officers involved in the illegal arrest, transport and neglect of Freddie Gray before he eventually died from a severed spine was a chess move on her part. It might be the only way to get those involved to reveal the truth about how Gray was injured and who is directly responsible for his death.

I believe Gray’s spinal injury happened before he was put into the police wagon – not after. The rough ride around town on those bumpy city streets exacerbated his broken back. I would know. I’ve never been arrested, but I used to live and work in Baltimore.

Batts already had admitted the Baltimore six should have called for medical assistance before the van showed up, and should have buckled Gray in after he was put in the van. Batts admitted the least of the offenses to take attention away from the bigger issue: The rampant culture of police brutality and what caused Gray’s injury to begin with?

The video of Gray’s arrest shows he was unable to stand up by himself as they placed him in the van. Maybe they put him on the floor, because he couldn’t sit up. Gray’s lack of body control was an(other) indication of paralysis and the need to call EMTs. I’ve had no police or medical training. But I’ve got plenty of common sense.

In a city where 80 percent of the residents are black, it’s to be expected that many of its political leaders and law officers would be black too. But what I didn’t expect is that among the Baltimore six would be black officers who showed little to no regard for the life of another black person, especially one who was of no immediate threat and had asked for medical help at least three times before Gray’s motionless body prompted them to do what they already should have done.

I applaud Mosby’s thorough investigative skills and decisiveness. She did what countless other state’s attorneys should have done when faced with the same evidence of reckless disregard for the people in police custody. When law officers realize they too will be held accountable for their behavior we’ll see a lot less of them hiding behind the blue curtain of silence. If the Baltimore six choose to stand together in their culture of misconduct and neglect, they should take the fall together too.

Steffanie is a freelance journalist living in the Dallas, Texas metroplex. Email her at [email protected] for questions, comments and speaking inquiries.




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