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by Peter Moskos

April 24, 2015

Well done, hon!

Things went well in Baltimore last night. So far, knock on wood, nobody else has gotten seriously hurt.

Compare this with police tactics in Ferguson. But Baltimore is better than Ferguson. And the BPD is better than the FPD. What we have not seen are flash-bang grenades. No tear gas. No gun shots (except for the "normal" Baltimore homicides). No riots. No fires. No looting.

Nothing is easy. But a bit of police restraint has gone a long way to keeping the peace. So kudos to all the brave Baltimore City police officers for a job well done.

Seeing all those cops lined up last night at the Western District WITHOUT riot gear -- looking like human beings, not being provocative, taking shit (and a few bottles), looking bored, and being professional about it -- it made me proud to have been a Baltimore cop.
[photo from CNN]

The whole no riot gear thing is interesting. I heard former commissioner Hamm say on CNN that he he didn't like that, tactically. "Somebody may get hurt." He was right. But in this case it worked. Yes, it was just luck. I'm saying this in hindsight. But luck matters.

So what if police had been decked out in riot gear? Sure shields and helmets give you needed protection against rocks and bottles. They also dehumanize police officers and provide a target for people throwing things. What if some SWAT-like team was there, looking bad-ass? (Is it still "QRT" or have they have they been rebranded?) Throw in an armored personnel carrier with a turreted machine parked right out front. Well, think of the message that would send! Now we've got a party!

[not Baltimore]

And then somebody throws a bottle. Or maybe lights a fire. And police respond with tear gas, rubber bullets, and flash grenades (the latter makes no sense at all, but anyway)? And then there's a baton charge. What if in that melee police get hurt? Seriously hurt. Well then those injuries would justify the military-like action.

But that's not what happened. Give credit where credit is due. And the Baltimore police last night deserve credit. Everybody went home. This didn't "just happen." These are choices made.

Look, it's not easy to say, "Men, women, go out there and stand there like targets. If anybody throws anything at you, duck and dodge. Pray for the best." But sometimes that is the job of police. Sometimes that is what you have to do to make sure nobody else, officers include, get seriously hurt. Also, ranking officers were there. That matters. (I did not see the mayor. Where was she? Was she at a more pressing meeting?)

Police exercised restraint. Police respected the right of people to protest. The police were professional and brave. Nobody knew how this was going to turn out. Imagine kissing your family goodbye that night before going to work, to stand in a line, in front of a police station, facing angry protesters throwing things at you. Shit is going down. "See you later, honey"! [smooch] It's not just another day at the office.

I didn't post this last night because I didn't want to sound foolish if the Western burnt down and people were killed. One guy with a gun even a rock and good aim could have changed (and still could change) everything. But so far so good.

46 comments:

Anonymous said...

It's not uncommon for police officers to deploy in regular uniform for a protest, then have additional resources (hidden away) on standby if things go sideways. Hopefully that is what happened here, otherwise those officers truly were put in a vulnerable position.

Peter Moskos said...

Oh yeah. I assume there were ready to deploy. No doubt about it.

Anonymous said...

I agree with your ideology. As an undergrad criminology student, I am inspired by the fact that someone with your ideology is in academia. The future of criminal justice in the U. S. is uncertain but the existence of professionals like yourself is reaffirming.

Anonymous said...

How about some kudos for the protesters?

Peter Moskos said...

Sure. But this is a blog about police.

Matt said...

I think you present a false dichotomy here of policing a protest in either standard Class Bs or full on Turtle Gear with all the trappings of disaster that we saw last summer.

I've policed dozens of protests. I've worn a standard uniform and wished I had more. I've worn bright yellow bike gear and really wished I had more. I've worn standard gear augmented with a helmet, gas mask, and PR24 and wished I had less. I've done an extraction after a cop was struck with a thrown IED and watched both the media and the police brass cover it all up. In the same protest I've been ordered to take off my helmet by a commander who was safely hidden away behind several ranks and files and was within inches of a secured door because I seem too aggressive. I've seen Laisez Faire tactics work perfectly. I've seen zero tolerance tactics work perfectly. I've seen arbitrarily deciding a group can have That street but not This street turn predictably terrible.

I agree that full Turtle gets the masses ramped up, but I have not found that giving a copper a helmet to protect his melon from a stray bottle or rock has any effect on a crowd compared to command having a clear set of reasonable expectations and consequences that are effectively communicated to both protestors and cops.

Peter Moskos said...

That's a good point. Maybe what should be emphasized here is that the police planners had a plan that did not involve a massive show of force and quick escalation to that (a decision that would have been supported by many cops).

Also, as to the previous comment, on further reflection, no, I don't thank the protesters. Sure the vast majority were peaceful (so thanks to them), but I saw many who assaulted police. It's the police who deserve credit for not responding in kind. Also, protesters have a choice to be there or not. The police do not.

David Woycechowsky said...

If I were offered what they made to be out there that night (including indemnities, immunities and insurance), I would accept the deal.

Anonymous said...

PCM. As to your question, the gap is too large. The protesters risked as much, if not more, being out there, and you won't even admit it was even a little bit to their credit. Based on the latest news, this was criminal homicide (whether it was negligent manslaughter or 1st degree murder doesn't mattter; all the elements AND evidence for criminal homicide have been reported.)

Peter Moskos said...

David, About $45,000 a year. Some were making overtime. But we're talking about $200. I'm call your bluff and say you not accept that deal.

As to thanking the protesters? The headline is a thanks to all of Baltimore. That includes the protesters. I did thank the peaceful protesters a bit (and it's odd you ignore that part). So yes, I am thankful, but I'm not sure exactly what to thank them for. For *not* hurting people? For *not* causing trouble? To quote Chris Rock, "You don't credit for something you're *supposed* to do!"

Anonymous said...

I didn't say that I wanted the job full-time. I merely said that I would be willing to be out there with them that night for what they actually made for working that night.

Peter Moskos said...

I would not choose to do that for $200. For $200, even without the protesters, I don't think I would be willing to stand all night with nothing to do.

Anonymous said...

You know PCM, getting your facts wrong undermines your cridibility. The new recruit out there was making $25 an hour and most closer to $35. Multiplied by 1.5 for an overtime shift x 8 and that equals $400. They didn't have to be out there the entire night; most probably actually spent time on that line totalling less than 4 hours. I'm not even counting shift differential cause I don't know if BPD offers that.

Peter Moskos said...

Jeeze, man. I did it in my head.
If you want to get into details, of course it matters how many years on and how much you actually make.
It's a 10 hour shift.
And there are taxes.
It also might not be overtime but comptime. For most cops it's not even overtime. Schedules are rearranged. If you're scheduled, of course, you get nothing.
There are lots of variables.
I guarantee you that one extra shift will not put $400 in your pocket at the end of the month.

campbell said...

For most cops it's not even overtime. Schedules are rearranged. If you're scheduled, of course, you get nothing.

Yeah, if they did it anything like they do it out here they'd rope in as many motors, bicycle units, etc as possible specifically to avoid paying any OT at all.

Peter Moskos said...

Yeah. Tough crowd here.

As my friend working that night put it, "Just another night in the hood."

campbell said...

And if he's so willing to jump out there for a really crappy boring assignment then he would be ecstatic at doing the regular job full time. But I'm going to guess the number of applications he's put in to police departments is 0.

Anonymous said...

Jeez man, you project this image in your head of the underpaid, overworked cop. And now you're trying to recover by making it about after tax money. Like I said, the gap is too big.

Peter Moskos said...

Whatever, dude. My point actually had almost nothing to do with what a cop makes. It had everything to do with the job they have to do. In this case, best case scenario is bored off your ass and standing for hours. Worst case is in a battle and getting hurt. And the unknown factor is part of makes it so rough.

Peter Moskos said...

And I still stay that *if* you get anything extra, $200 is a pretty good ballpark estimate.

Anonymous said...

And my point is that you have no idea what a protester is about. Best case is milling about trying to catch snippets of someone's speech on a bullhorn or chanting some phrase. Worse case is being trapped while some jerks do stuff you don't approve of and them being kettled by the police (while they give a disperse order). Worst case is being arrested and/or hurt. And there is no pay for this, but you have no other way you can think of to express your outrage that a 25 year old man died in police custody. You know, the people you are supposed to trust (Hah!)

Peter Moskos said...

Yeah. That's why I avoid crowds and protests, even on issues I agree with.

"No other way you can think of to express your outrage..." You're not thinking very hard.

I can think of many ways to affect change in this world. Teaching and writing come immediately to my mind. To each his own.

One thing that probably isn't going to change the world? Leaving comments here. Just sayin'...

Anonymous said...

Well, trying to give some context to your readers when you give BS numbers like $200 and then try to dance around because you don't like to admit you are just flat out wrong. Being white middle class former police officer with a PhD who is acquainted with several news producers and can get his op-eds published is just like being in Baltimore in Freddy Gray's neighborhood. Got it.

Peter Moskos said...

And voting. I'm pro-voting.
Baltimore City turnout? About 35 percent (Of registered voters).

Voting isn't perfect, and some bad people try and prevent others from voting, but overall it's a pretty decent system we've developed over time as a mean to turn anger and mass protest into change.

Also, it's not that I won't admit I'm wrong. It's just that in this case I'm not.

Peter Moskos said...

I love when *anonymous* commenters delve into the ad hominem, too. Keep it classy, tough guy.

Anonymous said...

Do you think saying "ad hominem" is some kind of get out of jail free card that wins the argument? You made a factual statement about the compensation received for a night on the protest line. I quickly checked the pay scale and it turned out you were wrong. That's the opposite of "ad hominem". You lamely try to move the goalposts, but I'm not buying it. The vast readership of the blog can decide if I won that debate or not. No "ad hominem" there.

Then you try to argue about the effectiveness of protests and introduce your own take on what you perceive as effective. I respond that your effectiveness is influenced by certain facts about you. That is not an "ad hominem" if you really understood the term. Even if it was, it's certainly not an attack given all of the qualities I ascribed to you are positive.

Peter Moskos said...

OK.

Anonymous said...

Now that's the proper way to get the last word in! (not some BS about ad hominem arguments that aren't.

Peter Moskos said...

You know, there's one thing you said that may be the source of our disagreement. And thinking about this, this may have caused problems here in the past. This has nothing to do with the issues. It's this: I don't keep this blog to have "a debate."

I have outlets for debate, mostly non-anonymous colleagues and actual real-life friends.

But here? If I sense "a debate" (or even a former debater, having been one) I will disengage. I'm not here to debate. If you think you are having "a debate" with me, you are mistaken. There is nothing here I am trying "to win."

I do welcome replies, thoughtful ideas, corrections and the like. I love feedback. I've learned a lot from other people's comments (mostly other cops, though). I even love a bit of a healthy discussion in the comments, but only on my terms. This is not a public forum. This is *my* blog.

David Woycechowsky said...

I did not do any of the anonymous posts on this thread, save one. I would have been willing to be out there that night (on the terms I specified). That wasn't an invitation to debate, but just a fact.

There may have been some debating here in this thd, but I wasn't a part of it.

I also thought my post about Freddie Gray's prints being all over his illegal knife was something everybody can, should and does agree on -- not an invitation to debate. Strange that that got deleted. Seems lie the least controversial post in the history of posting comments on blogs.

Peter Moskos said...

I deleted that comment because of the "drop gun/knife" implication (with no evidence). I don't need to hear that every time police are involved in something. Not part of Baltimore police culture. First-hand experience. End of story. Not gonna debate it. Don't even want other people to consider it.

Also, in general, I'm much less tolerant of nameless anonymous posts. It's kind of somewhere between rude and weaselly. Unless you have a good reason to remain anonymous (like being a cop), give me a fucking name, even a moniker. (And if people don't want anything public trace, they can always email me. Some do.)

But there's only one guy whose comments were so non-productive and annoying (and verbose) that I deleted them all. It was kind of fun, once I got into it.

David Woycechowsky said...

There was no dropping of anything. Officer Garrett Miller reported that he found the knife clipped to Freddie's pants before Freddie was loaded, without incident, into the police van.

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/crime/blog/bal-charging-documents-for-freddie-gray-20150420-htmlstory.html

So those are the facts straight from Officer Miller's police report.

Peter Moskos said...

So why would the knife have to be checked for fingerprints?

David Woycechowsky said...

I just said that I bet Freddy's fingerprints are all over that knife. There is no point in checking for them. Probably what they should do is take down the serial number so that they can trace the knife to its source and shut down whatever operation is selling illegal knives in Baltimore. Unless the knife doesn't have a serial number and is, therefore, untraceable. At that point the investigation would hit a dead end. I would say maybe check all the photo's of knives returned by the police to the regcits, but, that is unlikely to be fruitful because if the knife is not legal then the police would have destroyed it instead of returning it.

BOTTOM LINE: check the knife for fingerprints other than Freddy's to try to catch the illegal knife dealer, but no point in checking it for Freddy's prints.

Peter Moskos said...

David,
Have you lost it or are you trolling?
Knives don't have serial numbers. The knife isn't illegal; carrying it in public is illegal. There is no such thing as an illegal knife dealer. There will be no investigation.

David Woycechowsky said...

BALTIMORE CITY POLICE ORDINANCE:

§ 59-22. Switch-blade knives.
(a) Possession or sale, etc., prohibited.
It shall be unlawful for any person to sell, carry, or possess any knife with an automatic spring or
other device for opening and/or closing the blade, commonly known as a switch-blade knife.
(b) Penalties.
Any person violating the provisions of this section, shall, upon conviction thereof, be fined not
more than $500 or be imprisoned for not more than 1 year, or both, in the discretion of the court.
(City Code, 1950, art. 24, §155; 1966, art. 19, §160; 1976/83, art. 19, §185.) (Ord. 44-057.)

Peter Moskos said...

You are right about that knife not being legal in the city. My apologies.

Is that the type of knife (spring assisted) they arrested him for? That ordinance doesn't apply to manual non-locking blades.

David Woycechowsky said...

It has been a few hours since I read Officer Miller's report, but, as I recall: (i) he did not cite this ordinance by number; but (ii) his report made a reference to "automatic spring" and was very likely referring to this particular ordinance (even if it did not mention this ordinance by name).

Quick shout out to Village Voice for linking to the Baltimore City Ordinances (always a fun read), and to the Christian Science Monitor for a recent, well-written article on big city local knife laws.

I don't know if you have walked around Portland recently, but all the scariest people wear (what I presume to be) the maximum length fixed blade knife.

Anyway, yeah, investigate the knife. I would like to know exactly where it came from.

Peter Moskos said...

Amazon? Walmart? The corner store outside the city?

David Woycechowsky said...

If Amazon is shipping illegal knives into Baltimore then it sounds like an opportunity to make the biggest weapons charges collar in the history of Baltimore. And these arrests of Amazon executives can be made without dragging apparently injured, moaning, socially disadvantaged people into the back doors of police vans. For once, the police could actually nab the "kingpins" for reals.

I mean, in this case things worked out pretty well for team police because Officer Miller would be in real hot water if that knife had been intercepted before it even got to Freddy's Baltimore city mailbox. But, in general, it seems to me like there is something deeply wrong with the status quo here.

Peter Moskos said...

Oh, yes. There's a lot wrong with the status quo!

Anonymous said...

The praise for not wearing riot gear was premature. I'm sure your following the injuries to the officers with two in the hospital with serious injuries. It sounds like a good idea, but in the end how many officers are in the hospital or injured because it "sounds like a good idea?" I'm not a big fan of the riot gear look, but I'm less of a fan of taking a brick to my unprotected face.
Brett

Peter Moskos said...

Well, yeah. I was hoping that was the end of it. It wasn't. Today is different. I'm not against protection and force.

But it did work that night! I feel better (not that that matters) knowing that police didn't start the fight.

David Woycechowsky said...

Also, in support of Professor Moskos, it certainly appears that the officers had started wearing protective gear before they started taking thrown bricks.

Anonymous said...

David, That's a big assumption based on media coverage? Media coverage gives you a small sliver of what's happening on the ground. The sergeant with a bricked up face wasn't in riot gear. I'd have to be on the ground to make that assumption. Tactical events occur quickly and can turn chaotic quickly. The reason officers carry their tools on their belts is to have them when they need them. The ASP baton is standard issue in 90% of police departments because of the way its carried. If its on your belt, it will always be accessible when needed. Officers that carried straight sticks often found they were stuck in the door handle of their car when they really needed them. "Time out rioters/brick throwers, I need to put my riot gear on now to prevent taking a brick off my noggin." It doesn't work that way. Once again, riot gear and Bear Cats don't look warm and fuzzy, but they protect officers lives. Brett

Peter Moskos said...

A few cops got hurt today in Brooklyn (neighborhood of Baltimore) because they couldn't get their helmets on in time.