Freddie Gray and Baltimore Burning
Baltimore, Maryland: There are no winners and it does not look like there will be!
Baltimore, Maryland: There are no winners this past week!
Police are protecting the “shield” while citizens lose faith in police (no matter what the actual facts of the incident end up being surrounding the death of Freddie Gray), the indisputable fact is that this young man senselessly lost his life. Ask why; poor decisions, worse actions, police policy regarding public action, and now lost confidence from the citizenry.
In our society today, more than any other time in recent history – we have seen a response to call for NO POLICE action. No matter your profession, realize each is like its own system with inner workings and personalities, some “JUST,” others not so much.
This past Friday I was asked to immediately fly to Baltimore to help plan a “no firing zone” to ensure as many people as possible understand the mitigation process of active-shooter prevention. Ferguson taught us that badge and guns do not automatically protect you from [an] active shooter incident(s). The Ferguson police officer shot during the riot example was a “non-traditional” active shooter but one nonetheless.
There is no need for me to explain my decision to not travel to Baltimore but it seems prudent because my opinion is so engrained within this subject. I do not remember a time in my past that I refused anyone’s call for assistance or as in this matter, “help” (I use this term loosely) to protect others. The fact is, as an active shooter expert with experience inside two actual events with multiple shots fired, I have a unique perspective few others could fathom. Domestically speaking, its such an anomaly, my chances of winning the lottery were higher than finding myself in these incidents.
At the government’s request, I was summoned to participate in a tabletop exercise to produce calculated route planning for the security and safety of citizens and police alike. The goal was to teach the basics to the masses and plan for the unthinkable. What skewed my opinion to not go was just that, the unthinkable already took place (Freddie Gray), and reacting instead of planning makes it near impossible to be “right” in all areas. One misstep or missed the event and there would be detrimental scars left inside me similar to others I have from my police career.
Choosing winners and losers cannot determine safety – which means the city is choosing a path to mitigate an unforgivable tragedy, in this case, the loss of life of a young man. No matter the history of this person or what went wrong or by whom, both sides have polar opposite opinions. Trying to save face in light of exceptional rioting from out-sourced protestors, the city would see my role as a “would-be” appearance in RAW clips discussing a slanted view. Editing out the true opinions would not be worth the time away because both sides have stakes to smear the others in this incident.
The news stories coming out are already slanted to the family of the deceased youth and slightly misrepresented. This does not mean I believe the police are in the right because I do not in this case (with what details are known up to this time). My opinion of this incident and the outcome that would be prudent is the safety of the public, not blind public safety backing. As professionals, we need to align and write as far-reaching as possible. Spreading this narrative that we back professional mitigation and planning with solid community policies that support and back communities and police alike. We need to push this beyond print and media journalism with overlapping social media resources and followers of each.
Explaining the situation, politics aside, the police in Baltimore have a voice as their personal voices are muted by the policy. This is the same policy manual that seems to be at the heart of the matter at hand. Attempting to represent the community and people who feel they’ve been unjustly wronged will slight the police. Any attempt to explain the truisms here and there is nearly impossible.
Instead of sensationalizing the matters ongoing, we should get to the root of the issue, not create new problems. By setting fires, vandalizing local businesses (like we see at the CVS) and thievery will not solve nor deter the next bad decision by one or two officers. Out of over one million law enforcement professionals, even if the ones and twos who erode the personal trust we work so hard to covet, the messaging is being lost.
The majority of police professionals are here for the purpose of helping and others get slighted and erode attitudes because society expects its officers to correct problems in five-minute increments that took well over 20 years to create. Calls do not stop, while not one is the same, the narrative is similar, and eventually, all faces begin to look familiar. There are split-second decisions made by officers that will be second-guessed for days, weeks, and sometimes months or years. If your job had a standard of a “hiccup” as a private citizen (say DWI) would cost you your career, you may be enlightened a little more. But that trust cannot be restored by excuses of stress when the erosion begins one incident at a time.
The vast majority of incidents go unfettered with no major issues and then there’s the perception of impropriety. Once that is there, even if wrong, the “stink” does not come off. Think of Michael Brown in Ferguson, the narrative is, was and continues to not be true but that does not stop the people trying to remove civilized law enforcement. We need to work as a whole society to restore it by starting the conversation and keeping it moving forward and creating a more “community policing model” that works with the community.
This will not bring back bad deeds of the few truly bad policy decisions nor will Freeedie Gray return to the community, but it could stop the “next” Freddie Gray incident from happening. This should shed light form the inside that police are a microcosm of our own society. In each, that same society has bad actors. No excuses though for psychologically challenged badge wearers, but a call for communities to become stronger. Socially neutral as a retired law enforcement officer but that does not mean I am in “blind” support just because the people in question are the police. I stand with the communities for peaceful protests and a real transparent scenario.
I ask we continue this conversation as the months and years pass because if we fail here, we will see a “state-run police force” that will not be able to be “taken back.”
Active Shooter Prevention Expert and Community Policing Policy Strategies