Police officers carried BB and replica guns so they could be planted on suspects.
Police officers planted drugs and used them as the basis for false arrests.
Police officers handcuffed and detained people on false pretenses, then stole thousands of dollars from them.
Police officers illegally used GPS trackers to follow suspects.
Police officers conducted warrantless searches and discarded items they found.
Police officers lied on the stand.
Police officers routinely harassed young men without cause.
We know all of this has been happening in Baltimore because police officers have been testifying in a police corruption case that hasn’t gotten enough national attention. It matters because while that city has produced headlines for its rising crime rate, not enough attention has been paid to one of its causes: police misconduct. Police abuse creates mistrust, which makes residents less likely to cooperate in criminal investigations and more likely to take matters into their own hands.
From the Baltimore Sun: “[Former detective Maurice] Ward testified that his squad would prowl the streets for guns and drugs, with his supervisor, Sgt. Wayne Jenkins, driving fast at groups of people and slamming on the brakes. The officers would pop their doors open to see who ran, then give chase and detain and search them. Ward said this occurred 10 to 20 times on slow nights, and more than 50 times, “easy,” on busier nights. The officers had no reason to target the crowds other than to provoke someone who might have drugs or a gun into running.”
There’s no suggestion that anything similar is taking place in Charlotte. This city, though, like Baltimore, is one of a handful of U.S. cities that experienced days of protests, sometimes violent, the past couple of years, as well as an increase in crime when the rate in other parts of the country remained at historic lows or even fell. Here, images of protesters bothered some, particularly those who believe law enforcement has been unfairly demeaned in recent years. But no group, whether they are protesters or police, should be summarily dismissed or demonized. Instead, their perspectives can and should be part of an effort to find solutions that might increase trust between police and the communities they most frequently patrol.
While protests may be blamed on a single incident, such as Freddie Gray’s broken spine in Baltimore or the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte, long-standing problems are most often the cause. Those who live in “high-crime” neighborhoods are on the frontlines and are often exposed to those problems long before anyone else. That’s why they were protesting in Baltimore.
As for Charlotte, if we are to prevent a repeat of the protests we saw in September 2016, residents and leaders must continue to not only pursue solutions to the underlying economic reasons for unrest, but be vigilant about law enforcement transparency and police-community relationships that remain fragile.