For police, increasing scrutiny, pressure
They feel public expects officers to stop violence while being harassed
In the middle of an East Baltimore street, three police officers struggled to subdue an alleged drug dealer as a gathering crowd screamed objections and recorded the officers’ every move.
A video of the incident last week quickly racked up tens of thousands of views on Facebook. The footage shows an officer pushing the man’s chest onto the pavement and placing a knee on his lower back.
Forty-seven-year-old Curtis Myers twists his body in protest.
“Yo, get off my stomach,” Myers says, and the crowd erupts: “Get off his stomach!” “He can’t breathe!”
By the time the confrontation was over, one officer had a dislocated shoulder and two men were arrested — Myers on charges of illegal drug possession and resisting arrest, and a second man, Martez Buckner, 29, on charges of obstruction and hindering and resisting arrest.
Some witnesses at the scene and commenters on Facebook saw police harassment of citizens in the video. Others saw citizen harassment of police. The Police Department says a review of the video and officer body-camera footage determined the officers acted appropriately in the face of an aggressive crowd.
The department also says the incident captured in the video, while alarming, isn’t particularly surprising. Officials say it reflects the daily reality for officers responding
patrolling the east side in 2001, he said, is that to crime in the city. back then, police officers likely would have
“It shows you how quickly a scene can used more force to take Buckner to the turn chaotic,” said T.J. Smith, the departground as he resisted arrest. ment’s chief spokesman. “They simply try to Smith said police officers are out doing arrest those who are dealing drugs, and they their jobs every day, and the vast majority of have to deal with a hostile environment as a Baltimoreans support those efforts. result.” just totally disrespected the police officers. demned if they use force regardless of “The people hooting and hollering and
Smith said officers were on foot patrol in They invaded their personal space when the whether they are in danger themselves. acting like that aren’t representative of the the city’s Broadway East neighborhood officers were attempting to do the job they “Yes, they’re hesitant,” said Ryan, the city as a whole. We’re not prepared to believe about 1 p.m. Aug. 9 when they observed a are sworn to do.” union president. “They don’t want to be that that,” Smith said. “The people who want drug deal underway. Myers, the man allegSome on the scene disagreed. Buckner’s officer charged for doing their job properly police to take drug dealers off the street edly dealing the drugs, fled into a vacant father, who observed his son’s arrest and and going to jail.” aren’t videotaping it and aren’t yelling at building, Smith said, and the officers gave called it unjustified, said police provoked the Ryan traces that hesitance to the decision police.” chase. Myers jumped out a second-story uproar. of Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Marvin L. “Doc” Cheatham, the former window, Smith said, and climbed into a van. “The police is not lawfully doing the job Mosby to charge six police officers in Gray’s Baltimore NAACP leader, said police must
At some point during Myers’ arrest, Smith the way they should,” said Clarence Buckner arrest and death — all of whom were either be held to the Constitution. said, Buckner came to the scene and Sr., 61. “They take the law into their own acquitted or had their charges dropped. The longtime West Baltimore man was attempted to stop the officers from conducthands and treat people the way they want to “I call it the ‘Mosby effect,’” he said. “She party to a landmark ACLU lawsuit a decade ing their investigation. He was then arrested treat them.” totally ruined policing.” ago that reined in mass arrests for minor as well — which ratcheted up tensions Clarence Buckner said it was his van that Ryan said the union and its members offenses under then-Mayor Martin O’Malamong the gathered crowd. ley.Myersjumpedinto,andhisson—whointhesupportreforms,butdonotwanttocedethe
“He didn’t do nothing!” one woman summertime sells cold drinks out of coolers city to people who “want to take over the But he now believes police are doing too screamed. in the van — had simply tried to close the van streets and try to intimidate the police
little. “Everybody video!” urged another. doors when the officers rushed him and officers.” He also said patrols are under
Cheatham said he can name 20 open-air The officers dropped a citywide Signal 13, began elbowing and shoving him. staffed — a point on which city officials a request for immediate backup. At one He said police then had his van towed agree. drug markets in his Matthew A. Henson point, the officer with his knee on Myers’ away, even though he told them they could Mosby did not respond to Ryan’s critineighborhood, including one on a short back pulled out his Taser — but didn’t deploy search it on the scene. cisms directly, and said she could not stretch of Ruxton Avenue where four men it — as he swiveled his head around, trying to “My son Martez, all he did was walk over comment on Myers’ and Buckner’s cases. have been killed this year, and where addicts keep an eye on those crowding around him. by my van and shut the door, and the police But she said in a statement the video “are able to buy drugs without even getting
Myers was taken to an area hospital for started locking him up,” he said. “They “illustrates the difficult job that police out of their car.” minor abrasions from jumping out the shouldn’t have messed with my son. … My officers face throughout our country, not just “The problem is the police are taking a window, Smith said. Myers, who was on son was protecting my property.” here in Baltimore.” knee on open-air drug markets,” Cheatham probation for a May drug charge, and Though crowds forming around arrests is Mosby said her office and the Police said. “All they are doing is driving by. They Buckner were released on their own recogas old as policing itself, and citizens filming Department are “working hard every day to don’t talk to the guys and say, ‘You can’t do nizance after their arrests. They could not be at city crime scenes has become commonstrengthen our partnerships in the commuthis.’ They don’t stop them.” reached for comment. place, the actions of police officers in nity in order to successfully prosecute cases,” Cheatham said he hears officers blaming
The officer who dislocated his shoulder Baltimore have come under increasing and “refuse to allow divisiveness to derail the lack of proactive policing in West was also transported to a local hospital, scrutiny after the death of Freddie Gray from our efforts to make Baltimore safer.” Baltimore on the consent decree and the Smith said. injuries suffered in police custody in 2015 Former Baltimore police officer Peter restrictions they believe it has placed on
Lt. Gene Ryan, president of the local and a subsequent U.S. Department of Justice Moskos, now a professor at the John Jay enforcement tactics such as clearing corpolice union, said he watched the video report that found a pattern of unconstituCollege of Criminal Justice in NewYork, said ners. But he said he isn’t buying it. alongside top brass at police headquarters, tional policing in Baltimore. the video showed a routine incident in a city “This has nothing to do with the consent and believes it shows more than a few The city is suffering record levels of where big crowds have long treated street decree,” he said. “They’re giving us excuses bystanders threatening the officers. violence this year. Two hundred and twenty arrests as public spectacles. when they aren’t doing what they are
“It was outrageous. It was appalling. How people were killed through Wednesday. “This is what happens,” he said. “It is sort supposed to be doing.” can you effectively police in a city that has no Some officers say they feel they are under of normal.” respect for authority?” Ryan asked. “They a microscope as never before, to be con- What might have changed since he was
A video screengrab of Baltimore police officers arresting an alleged drug dealer as a crowd forms around them. Bystanders scream, and the officers request help.