Take the recent police-involved killing of a father and son in Baltimore on the 400 block of E. Lanvale (314 Post, AKA Bodie's Corner.)
This is Baltimore City Police Commissioner Davis having the cops' backs (I transcribed from the video in this story):
Kudos to Davis. You couldn't ask for more. Now this is what one would expect from a good leader. But good leadership, especially in Baltimore, is not a given.
We had three police officers who were in the right place at the right time.
The police came and did their job and did what they had to do.
And I would add to that if not for the Baltimore police department yesterday, we could have had a mass shooting on our hands where several innocent lives could easily have been taken. I'm very proud of the work of our police officers yesterday. Their bravery. We can't run from danger. We don't run from bad guys with guns. We engage them.
We fired 56 rounds yesterday, until this threat was eliminated. I want to put that right out there right now: 56 rounds. And you can see, and you can perhaps imagine confronting, in a neighborhood street in broad daylight, a father and son duo, with an intent to kill, that's what it took to eliminate that threat.
I'll add to that, the son, one of the two men that we shot and killed yesterday, the son was out on bail for a handgun offense and the father was out on probation for a handgun offense. And that's why I've personally spent so much time in Annapolis in this legislative session, in an effort to convince lawmakers, and we certainly have convinced the ones from Baltimore, about the necessity to do more with these laws and make these misdemeanors felonies. It's about time. But that message still isn't getting through.
But our police officers and our community knows [sic] that unfortunately there are violent repeat offenders among us, who live right here in our city, who think nothing about carrying two guns like that in broad daylight and popping out of a car. If it weren't for the bravery of the Baltimore City Police Department, we could be having an entirely different press conference right now.
Davis didn't have to say what he said. He didn't have to say anything. Or he could have had a spokesperson say something neutral like "we're investigating the incident." Or he could have raised an eyebrow by mentioning the number of shots fired before emphasizing how the "officers guns were taken immediately after the shooting and they remain on modified duty, as is departmental policy."
But Commissioner Davis didn't do any of that. He went out of way to support his officers how bravely engaged with armed gunmen. This matters.
Contrast this with former commissioner Batts who, in the name of progress and reform, threatened cops and led the city into riots and violence.
But really contrast this with Baltimore City's elected State's Attorney, Marylyn Mosby, who pushes a cops-are-the-problem perspective. Her husband is running for mayor. She's wasting her precious prosecutorial resources by prosecute good cops who may or may not have made an honest mistake.
After this shooting, Mosby treated the officers like criminals. For the first time in as long as anyone can remember, officers involved in a good shooting were read their Miranda Rights like common criminals. For shame. These cops aren't criminals; they aren't suspects in "custodial interrogation."
Were it not for Davis and his strong and passionate words at the press conference (and also good journalism by the Baltimore Sun from which Davis quoted), it's easy to imagine an anti-police narrative taking root. After all, this is Baltimore, where police are quick to gun down a father and son (with latter with junior-high-school graduation pictures at the ready) over a misdemeanor! (In Maryland and many states, illegal gun possession is just a misdemeanor).
I'm sure some non-present "witness" could be found saying, "The cops didn't have to fire all those shots. They had already given up." Academics would criticize Broken-Windows policing. Al Sharpton, able to get a few days off work, would appear to criticize racist policing. Protesters could chant "56 shots!" while the national media returned to Baltimore and ask if (ie: hope that) more violence would be forthcoming.
In that world, if Davis doesn't have the cops' backs, the next time a group of officers in an unmarked car see two guys getting out with guns? The cops could just keep on driving.
Eventually, after the shooting stops and bodies drop, somebody would call 911.
Would you engage armed gunmen? Why risk your life? Why face potential criminal prosecution? This is why having cops' backs matters.
Update: Regarding Mosby reading the cops their rights, here's the FOP's statement:
2nd Update: Also, homicides year-to-date are up 25 percent this year compared to last. But given the post-riot near doubling in violence last year, being up only 25 percent from pre-riot figures is actually a massive improvement of sorts.
3rd Update: Mosby's office denies it. (I wasn't there. But I don't believe her. It's not like she has a track record of telling the truth.) And the BPD decides not to engage. But the union will play:
Lt. Gene Ryan, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, said Saturday that the statement from the state's attorney's office was "so completely inaccurate that it should be labeled an outright lie."