Thursday, April 22, 2021

The Journal of Steffanie Rivers: Crooked Cops in Baltimore Out of Control

*When it comes to holding bully, liar, killer cops accountable for misusing their authority – against mostly unarmed Black and Brown people – President Biden and members of Congress are slow-moving trains. 

But lawmakers in Maryland appear to be stepping up to hold law enforcement officers accountable for their actions. State legislators introduced a bill to get rid of what’s known as ‘police qualified immunity.’ This immunity gives law enforcement officers (LEOs) a legal defense against personal liability for misconduct in the line of duty. So even if LEOs don’t follow standard police operating procedures in the line of duty ‘police qualified immunity’ gets them off the hook.

It often happens with the use of no-knock search warrants: Cops burst in unannounced, residents inside the home don’t know who it is. They protect themselves by using deadly force against intruders. In retaliation cops shoot at residents and somebody ends up maimed, if not killed whether or not they were the focus of the warrant. When the smoke clears a judge charges residents with shooting at cops, but cops get to use ‘qualified immunity’ protection because they acted in the line of duty. That’s how ‘qualified immunity’ works. 

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Tampa Bay Rays v Baltimore Orioles
BALTIMORE, MD – AUGUST 25: A Baltimore City police emblem on a shirt during a baseball game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on August 25, 2019 in Baltimore, Maryland. Teams are wearing special color schemed uniforms with players choosing nicknames to display for Players’ Weekend. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

Another part of the Maryland police reform bill allows LEOs to be criminally charged when they use unjustified excessive force, as well as charges for other cops who fail to stop the unlawful use of excessive force or if they don’t offer help to someone they just shot while the victim lays dying – as cops are known to do.

Unarmed Black man Andre Hill in Columbus, Ohio is the latest known victim allowed to die without medical assistance from the cop who shot him. Adam Coy was fired from Columbus PD and later charged with Hill’s murder. 

If this Maryland bill becomes law perpetrators could get up to ten-years in prison for excessive force that leads to death or serious injury for the LEO who causes it and other cops who make up the blue wall of silence and don’t stop it. The mandatory use of body cams also is part of this police bill that Maryland state lawmakers could vote on sometime this week. If you or anyone you know lives in Maryland they should contact their representative in Annapolis and tell them to support Maryland House Bill 1049. 

Before you think these Maryland lawmakers are God’s gift to politics and are unselfishly concerned about the welfare of others you should know why they want to change the rules, especially in Maryland: Most likely they are trying to keep the state of Maryland from going bankrupt by all the civil lawsuit payouts due to crooked ass cops. Maryland has one of the worst records in the country for civil suit payouts against police misconduct. 

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The most notable case in recent years is the $6.4 million civil settlement to Freddie Gray’s family in 2015. Remember Gray died in police custody. Several cops were charged with his murder. Even though they admitted under oath to not following protocol they either were found not guilty by jurors or the charges were dropped.

Since 2015 there have been 269 claims filed against Baltimore PD for police misconduct. Nearly $3 million has been paid to settle judgements that include civil rights violations and unjustified use of force. 

That doesn’t include $8 million recently paid to a police trainee who was blinded when he was shot by an instructor at the training facility. That was left off the list because the case is not considered misconduct.

It also doesn’t include pending payments to Baltimore residents robbed by crooked cops later convicted. These crooked cops would use their badges to get through the door claiming to search for illegal guns then the cops would rob the people and get away with it. Until they got caught. 

Since the police department gets its operating budget from the city, and the city gets its operating budget money from the state now you see why state lawmakers want to cut these crooked ass cops lose if they get caught breaking the law. They are tired of having to pay the bill with cops escaping without monetary or punitive accountability. 

If this bill gets passed we should expect cops will use it as an excuse to not answer legitimate police calls and police union reps will come out against it. So get ready for the backlash. When cops see it’s not open season on Black people anymore they will either do right or find another job. Either way is okay with me. 

So our strategy should be to find the states where there are lots of civil lawsuit payouts due to police misconduct and get state lawmakers to do the same thing they’re trying to do in Maryland – cover their asses!

Steffanie-Rivers-screenshot1
Steffanie Rivers

Steffanie Rivers is a freelance journalist living in the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex. Email her at info@SteffanieRivers.com with your comments, questions and speaking inquiries. Follow her @tcbstef on Twitter and Instagram.

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