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by Peter Moskos

June 15, 2016

10-32. They're all going to be acquitted.

I'm calling this trial for the defense. Now I'm only following on twitter, so take this with a grain of salt, but the trial of Goodson -- the most culpable of the officers on trial for the death of Freddie Gray -- is not going well for the prosecution. Judge Williams told the defense that they may "truncate their case." The defense filed a written motion for judgment of acquittal. (Doing so in writing is unusual.) Such a motion is rarely granted, and this case is probably no exception, but think about it: how can you tell the defense to "keep it short" if there's a chance you'll decide for other side?

The prosecution called Neill Franklin, my old police academy commander, co-author, and co-believer in ending the drug war. The prosecution paid Neill to testify as an expert witness regarding "rough rides." He didn't know much about them. What cop would?

Franklin did get busted for not knowing his 10-codes, which I find kind of funny. Now 10-codes are city specific and Franklin, in his defense, was never a street cop in Baltimore and has competing 10-codes to account for. But he was responsible for the department (Education and Training) that taught 10-codes. Franklin was brought in as an expert witness in "general orders, policies and procedures." Well, in that case you should know your local 10-codes. I still know my 10 codes (admittedly, I'm a bit rusty on ones I probably never knew, like "request animal shelter.")

What are 10 codes? Think 10-4. You know what that means. Well there are a few others. Along with the "signal and oral codes," Baltimore City has 10-6 (wait), 10-9 (repeat), 10-11 (meet me at... which, if used on a call, is a non-emergency call for more officers), 10-14 (wagon), 10-15 (emergency wagon), 10-16 (backup, but means emergency backup, and is less than a balls-to-the-wall "Signal 13"), 10-18 (shift is over!), 10-20 (location), 10-23 (arrived on scene), 10-29 (records check), 10-30 (wanted, but I hope some cops still use "thirty-dash-one" without knowing what it refers to), 10-31 (in progress), 10-32 (enough units on scene, ie: stop contributing to the clusterfuck), 10-33 emergency. And maybe since last year codes like 10-34 (civil disturbance) and 10-90 (looting) entered the Baltimore 10-code lingua franca.

Now keep in mind these 10-codes are Baltimore City specific. And the fact that there isn't a standard list of 10-codes (except 10-4, and 10-20 always means location) makes them not only useless but potentially dangeriou, especially when disaster strikes and you need inter-agency communication. There's a justified movement to move away from 10-codes and go to plain English.

That said, there is something efficient and clear about 10 codes. That is worth something. Also, they're kind of fun.

So Franklin didn't know 10-15. That doesn't look good for an expert on Baltimore arrest procedure. But the former major in charge of the police academy would have basically zero dealings with prisoners or prisoner transport; Maryland state police don't use wagons. He did testify that seatbelting does not ensure an individual is secure and that it's possible for prisoners to unseatbelt themselves.

Now Franklin's job (yes, expert witnesses are paid) is not to do what the prosecution says or help any side. His job was to come to court, be put on the stand under oath, and answer questions honestly to the best of his abilities. He did that. That he didn't help the prosecution is not his concern. But it is a problem for the prosecution. A big problem.

There's this:

If Franklin really is the best witness prosecution can call in the least weak case the prosecution has? Well, that's why I say it's over.


bacchys said...

His neck was broken while he was in the van. Whatever their criminal culpability, some cops fucked up. It's a demonstration of how corrupted some people have become that this is overlooked.

The pretense that Baltimore officers don't know what a "rough ride" is is specious. Dondi Johnson was killed by one in 2005, and seventeen people were suing the city over "rough rides" at the time Gray was killed.


Moskos said...

I don't think it is overlooked. Prisoners shouldn't die. But I don't buy the idea that because somebody died, a cop committed a crime and needs to go to jail.

Perhaps prisoners shouldn't be transported in hard-interior vans. Especially not seat belted. So buy a better van and make training reflect reality and prisoners won't die in transport (or at least we'd have a recording). But the city is too cheap to do that. Instead it pays out much more -- many millions -- for Gray's death. That's how it works. But this is a criminal trial of individuals who did not commit a crime, even though somebody died.

There are lots of cases of people dying -- because of fault -- but it's still not a crime. Like when drivers kill pedestrians.

Did Dondi Johnson get a "rough ride"? I don't know. He died like Freddie Gray. That doesn't mean there was a "rough ride."

Roughly a hundred thousand prisoner transports a year we're talking about. Every couple of years one goes wrong? If Baltimore's got 99 problems, "rough rides" doesn't even make the top 50.

If it were common, how would 99,999 prisoners get to CBIF safely? (And accepted into CBIF, which won't take injured prisoners.) 17 lawsuits out of hundreds of thousands of people over the years? You gotta do better than that. I bet the MTA gets more lawsuits for rough rides. In fact, I guaren-fucking-tee more people sue the MTA for rough-ride injuries than sue the police department for rough rides. You believe those bus drivers are out their trying to injure riders' backs? I don't.

So no, it doesn't seem like an endemic problem. And no, it's not part of Baltimore police culture. But what do I know? I was only part of that culture.

(Now taking prisoners and dropping them off far away... that was part of the culture. Didn't happen often, but it happened. Until it didn't.)