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April 23, 2015

Pain in Baltimore

Harry M. Covert

In all probability the toughest job in the world these days is being a cop. This slang expression is considered an acceptable term for serving men and women that comes from Constable on Patrol. There are other meanings, of course.

One of the most troubling things to happen in Maryland of late has been the Baltimore death of young guy, who died in police custody apparently from tormented ride in what would have been described as a paddy wagon in days of yore.

Investigation into the death of the citizen from a spinal cord injury while handcuffed behind his back has brought about no answers. The preliminary investigation says the guy started running from cops on bicycles. It has been alleged that the victim had a pocket knife and no evidence has surfaced of an illegal switch blade.

My heart has always been in support of cops. But, by reputation, Charm City’s police have always had a problem and have dealt with crime, most particularly the drug business, in questionable ways.

Citizens are protesting massively over the unexplained death of Freddie Gray. Sure, he was known for a long list of arrests over the years, 20 to be exact, but on April 12 he incurred a fatal spinal injury as he was taken into custody.

Its pains me to question the honesty and veracity of the cops in this matter. But, there is no other feeling to be had. Just because Mr. Gray saw the police and ran from them is no reason for him to die. Watching the video and listening to authorities brings out raw anger and it should.

I can recall several instances of almost similar experiences that crossed my path.

Once during a day at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, in hopes of watching a Baltimore-Boston baseball game, a young man was nabbed attempting to sell his tickets outside of the designated area for such activity.

The watchful police on duty were determined to thwart any ticket sales or alleged scalpers. The fan, and he was a fan, was grabbed, handcuffed and thrown in the back of a police wagon. He was summarily driven to Central Booking, landing in a cell where he remained for hours.

Rather harsh treatment for trying to sell an extra ticket, only a few feet from the authorized space in front of the stadium. He was a Caucasian.

A few years ago in Arlington, VA., an 18-year-old was walking down Wilson Boulevard. It happened to be at 11 P.M. Saturday night. As the fellow sauntered, wearing glassless spectacles, a police cruiser drove by and then slowed down. Suddenly the boy started running. In moments he was nabbed, slammed to the ground, cuffed and taken to jail only a few blocks away.

The teenager was charged with eluding police. The latter had heard of an alleged burglary, but no description of the intruder had been broadcast. He spent the weekend in jail before being released without charges on Monday.

Obviously both of these examples are worth exploring. Yes, ticket sales for sporting events are important and protected by law. Walking down the street, even when WWB (walking while black) is legal. Common sense should be the order of the day.

In heavy crime areas, police protection is vital. But, there is no crime for thinking or what is in a citizen’s heart.

The Baltimore situation is not going away. The Maryland governor’s office should have jumped in before the federals. Is it time for State Law Enforcement to take over the Baltimore Police Department? The situation is dire. The agency has a policeman’s bill of rights. This may be a good thing; but, in this matter, the rights are superseded by what is correct, truthful and honorable.

Every segment of the Baltimore community should be alarmed at Freddie Gray’s death. Let me expand that thought. Every citizen of Maryland must be concerned with the disgraceful activities.

As of this writing no word has come from the governor’s office in Annapolis. There’s no reason to avoid the issue. It is political; it is personal; it is more than painful. It is “Life on the Streets.”


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