Police Brutality in the Baltimore Riots & the Rise of Police Militarization

Release Date
December 16, 2015


Civil Liberties Criminal Justice Justice Politics & Policy Rights

Has police brutality become an issue in America? From the Baltimore riots to Ferguson, the rise of police militarization has been a cause for concern. What do you think about the recent events involving police brutality?

Freddie Gray and Police Brutality in Baltimore (article): Peter Suderman samples the archives of the Baltimore Sun for articles providing context for longstanding issues in Baltimore
Radley Balko on the Militarization of America’s Police Force (video): VICE Meets conversation about the militarization of America’s police force, with journalist and author of Rise of the Warrior Cop, Radley Balko.
Tim Lynch (video): Tim Lynch of the Cato Institute looks at the death of Freddie Gray and asks the discusses the following questions: Does Congress need to spend more money on jobs programs and police body cameras? Should the Department of Justice sue the City of Baltimore for a pattern and practice of civil rights violations? Are better policy options available?

If I go and report that offcer assaulted me, I’m not going to get investigated. I’m not going to be seen. I’m not even gonna receive a letter. I’m not even gonna get message saying who this, why are you doing something? We’re not going to get that, see what I’m saying?
When somebody, now days, when somebody get killed by officers, it’s being recorded and stuff like that, but the way it is now, we’re not gonna get justice for an officer, like I said, if we’re standing on a corner, how many of you talking, officer come up, hit you in the face, hit me in the face, no reason, we go to jail.
But when we get out, we let the commissioner know what’s going on. He still take the officer’s side. We go to court, the court still gonna take the officer’s side. We report it to internal affairs, they still, they don’t even care.
>> Put the gun down. Put it down, down.
>> Gun!
>> The term police brutality has been used in American Press since 1872, when The Chicago Tribune reported on a beating of a civilian under arrest at the Harrison Street Police Station. If you’ve been following the headlines for the past few years, you may feel you’ve seen this visual before.
Heavily armed police, boiling racial tensions, a mix of peaceful and destructive activists. And at the core of it, a violent brutality by the officer of the law. These images are some of the most disturbing examples of police brutality in quite some time. But it’s important for us to stop and ask ourselves, how in the world did we get here?
Why does this keep happening? And, what, if anything, can we do about it?
>> On your face!
>> On April 12th, 2015, Freddy Gray, an African American resident in Baltimore, Maryland sustained severe injuries following his arrest by policemen.
>> Six days later, Gray fell in a coma. The residents of Baltimore protested in front of the Western District Police Station.
Gray died the following day, a week after him being arrested.
>> We know that he asked for medical attention. We know that medical attention was not immediately requested for him. We know that was a mistake.
>> Initially 75 to 100 high school kids began throwing bricks and bottles at the police near Mondawmin Mall.
After police refused high school students access to the primary means of getting home, the police responded by throwing rocks and bricks back at the students. The violence rapidly spread.
>> And by later on that day, two patrol cars were destroyed, 15 officers were injured, and a CVS going up in flames.
Thousands of police in Maryland Army National Guard were deployed, and a state of emergency was declared in the city limits of Baltimore, and were given a command to enforce order, and a 10:00 PM curfew.
>> The National Guard represents a last resort in order to restore order. Look, people have the right to protest and express their frustration, but Baltimore city families deserve peace and safety in their communities.
When these things happen, what I find particularly frustrating is that it brings the issue of police militarization up to the forefront for a very brief moment in time. And then it seems to just fade back again, into whatever it was before.
>> The motto of the US military, which in effect says something like I stand ready to deploy and destroy the enemies of the United States in close combat, and we see that those two things are radically different.
>> I can’t tell you what’s going to happen the next month, six months, with this situation, but it’s gonna still happen, and people are gonna still react the same way. It’s not like it’s nothing new. Same thing happened at Ferguson. The same thing happened in 68 in Baltimore in the riots, and they happened in the Watts riots in 65, same thing happened and the Black Panther Party, the same thing happened to the World Indian Organization.
I mean it’s just the government, you know, that’s the crazy thing about it. I used to work for the government, so I understand it deeply, and I think people really underestimate how controlled shit is.
>> But what we’ve seen overtime is that now the language and the type of tactics that were used, once exclusively by the military, have now worked their way into standard police practices.
So, we see things like police wearing battle dress uniforms or BDUs, the things with the camouflage on them, they’re wearing heavy Kevlar and bulletproof vests, they have high powered rifles. And we also see other indications that this is a cultural kind of shift. So, as opposed to referring to their neighborhood as a neighborhood, the refer to it as a battlefield, or they refer to it as a war zone, as opposed to saying these are the citizens, or these are the people in my district.
They’re referring to them as combatants, or it’s an us versus them mentality, as opposed to a I’m protecting my community mentality.
>> I think the police are just trying to be military people, like soldiers and I think that’s how they try to treat us. You know, like we are from Iraq or something like that, like we’re terrorists.
>> The government runs everything, hire people like puppets. They just put one thing on TV and everyone just runs with it. Nobody asks questions, people don’t think for themselves. I think that’s the thing that gets to me the most. It fucked with me, it really fucked with me.
>> Just freedom, man, just freedom of creation, freedom of peace, freedom to think and react. The one big thing I would change is that it’s such a police state, police country.
>> Maybe at some point enough of these things happen that people start to realize that this is a legitimate problem, and that it’s not just a one off incident.
It’s not just a oh, well, there were a few bad apples kind of argument, that people will figure out that this is a systematic problem. And once you start addressing the actual root cause of these kinds of incidences, then you, I think, can then start to legitimately think about and talk about ways that you can start to pull this back.
>> I’m Zakee Kuduro, the director of this film. I travelled to Baltimore because I wanted to understand what was happening. I truly hope this video gets you thinking, why does this keep happening and what can we do to stop it? I hope you watched the other film in the series and please share your thoughts and comments, and let’s keep this conversation going.