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!
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.