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Baltimore police officers break silence on riots, murder spike and Freddie Gray


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By Brooke Baldwin and Dana Ford, CNN | Video Source: CNN

(CNN)Forty-two people were killed in Baltimore in May, making it the deadliest month there since 1972.

 

When asked what's behind that number, a Baltimore police officer gave an alarming answer. Basically, he said, the good guys are letting the bad guys win.

 

"The criminal element feels as though that we're not going to run the risk of chasing them if they are armed with a gun, and they're using this opportunity to settle old beefs, or scores, with people that they have conflict with," the officer said. "I think the public really, really sees that they asked for a softer, less aggressive police department, and we have given them that, and now they are realizing that their way of thinking does not work."

 

He was one of two active Baltimore police officers who spoke to CNN on Tuesday about crime in their city. They also touched on the death of Freddie Gray, a young black man who died in police custody, and the riots that followed.

 

The officers were not given permission to speak from their department. Because of that, and in an attempt to allow them to talk candidly, CNN agreed on their condition of anonymity.

 

Both said the Baltimore Police Department is simply reacting to events instead of being proactive. They talked about feeling abandoned by their leadership and feeling scared -- not about being hurt, necessarily, but about being charged criminally for doing what they see as their job. Six officers have been charged in Gray's death, which has been ruled a homicide.

 

"Ultimately, it does a disservice to the law-abiding citizens. It does a disservice to the business owners. It does a disservice to everybody except the criminal element," the second officer said about operating in reactive mode.

 

He denied the existence of a work slowdown but said he couldn't promise proactive policing.

 

"Even though you have reasonable suspicion," he said, "nine out of 10 times, that officer is going to keep on driving."

City and police officials have repeatedly denied any stand-down order was given to officers after of Gray's death.

'They feel betrayed'

 

Worry has overtaken a lot of officers, and now morale is low, said Lt. Kenneth Butler, who heads a police union in Baltimore, the Vanguard Justice Society.

 

"They feel as though, if I make a mistake -- which we all do make mistakes -- then what is this administration going to do to me?" he told CNN's Miguel Marquez. "Am I going to be the next one to be suspended? Am I going to be the next one who is going to be criminally charged?"

 

One officer called the union leader to ask if he'd be liable if a suspect he was chasing ran into traffic and got hit by a car, Butler said. He couldn't answer the question, so the officer told Butler he'd stop pursuing suspects on foot for now.

Normally, officers would do their duty more robustly, Butler said, but they don't feel like their leadership has their back anymore. "A lot of guys ... they feel betrayed," he said.

 

Commissioner answers

 

Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts last week blamed the uptick in crime on the number of looted drugs that have made their way to the city's streets after April's riots.

 

After a portion of the officers' interview aired on CNN, Batts spoke to reporters Tuesday and was asked to respond to what they said.

 

"What I put to them, again, is (to) remember why you do this job," CNN affiliate WJZ reported the commissioner said about the officers. "We don't get to pass up bad guys. We don't get to let bad guys walk around the streets with guns."

 

In similar comments last month, Batts acknowledged he has heard from officers who worry they could face legal jeopardy for pursuing suspects, but denied reports there has been a coordinated work slowdown because of a loss of confidence in department leadership.

 

"I hope they realize that what their actions are and the fact that the community needs them," Batts told CNN's "AC360." "When I'm going through the roll calls, what I share with them, Anderson, is the fact that remember why you came on this job and why you put that gun belt on, why you put that badge on, and why you wear that uniform every single day, for the grandmothers and the babies and the little ones."

 

'We were told to not engage'

 

Both officers complained about the response to the riots that rocked Baltimore after Gray's death. Businesses were burned and looted, and at least 20 officers were injured in the April violence.

 

The officers said they would have pushed for a stronger and more immediate show of force.

 

"We were told to not engage. When I say not engage -- to allow the people to throw whatever items were being thrown at us, and just hold the line," said the first officer, who recalled feeling scared. "I think if they would have just allowed us to get the perpetrators that were instigating it, it would have de-escalated a whole lot quicker."

 

Batts has told CNN that officers weren't prepared when what started as teenagers throwing rocks escalated into a major riot.

'Everybody has lost something'

 

Gray died from a fatal spinal cord injury on April 19, exactly one week after he was arrested.

 

Part of his arrest was captured on cell phone video that went viral. It shows him being dragged by officers and loaded into a transport van. What happened inside that van has become a source of intense speculation.

 

"When you're looking at the lives of six police officers, there can be no guessing. There can be no speculation. That's what the medical examiner is for," said the first officer, when asked how he believes Gray died.

 

The second officer talked about compliance and said the officers involved did "nothing wrong."

"If you're compliant, you will not have to be engaged by officers. Force has to be used with equal force," he said.

 

Authorities have said that Gray bolted after making eye contact with officers at an area known for high crime and drug activity.

The video does not show the entire confrontation between Gray and the officers, but nothing in the footage suggests Gray used any force against the officers. In fact, Baltimore Deputy Police Commissioner Jerry Rodriguez has that said Gray "gave up without the use of force."

 

"Our training and expertise, we are trained to be able to escalate things before they escalate," the second officer said when pressed about his comments on "equal force."

 

"Everybody has lost something because of this," he said about Gray's death.

 

When asked what the officers lost, he replied: "Their lives. I mean, they will never be able to go back to their normal life at this point. It doesn't matter if they're exonerated, which they should be. It doesn't matter. This is a life-changing event, which can't be turned back around."

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well you knew this was coming. Freddie Gray died very suspiciously while in custody, that's a problem. He somehow managed to get his neck broke while riding in the back of a police van. This isn't some error in judgement in the heat of the moment which are errors that are inherent with the job. No somebody beat dafaq out dat nigga and now cops are like oh I don't know if I even want to pursue anyone on foot anymore oh my gosh wally. They're basically saying every now and then, we gonna tune some ngr up just cause we feel like it and if you want any policing at all in your neighborhood...that's the package deal. Deal with it or you get no police at all.

 

Gives real cops a bad bad name right there, fuck those guys.

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well you knew this was coming. Freddie Gray died very suspiciously while in custody, that's a problem. He somehow managed to get his neck broke while riding in the back of a police van. This isn't some error in judgement in the heat of the moment which are errors that are inherent with the job. No somebody beat dafaq out dat nigga and now cops are like oh I don't know if I even want to pursue anyone on foot anymore oh my gosh wally. They're basically saying every now and then, we gonna tune some ngr up just cause we feel like it and if you want any policing at all in your neighborhood...that's the package deal. Deal with it or you get no police at all.

 

Gives real cops a bad bad name right there, fuck those guys.

So you were there? Will you be a prized witness for The Defense?

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I didn't like the rush to judgment against the police. There should be an investigation and the police are supposed to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. The prosecutor in this case seems biased against the police and needs to step down and have a more independent and less biased prosecutor handle this case.

 

Bumbling, Biased Baltimore Prosecutor Must Recuse Herself

 

http://news.investors.com/ibd-editorials/051115-752109-bumbling-biased-baltimore-prosecutor-must-recuse-herself.htm?p=2

 

 

Biased Much ? Baltimore Prosecutor Marilyn Mosby Sits On Stage As Guest Of Honor For Prince Concert Rally and Freddie Gray Justice…

 

http://theconservativetreehouse.com/2015/05/10/biased-much-baltimore-prosecutor-marilyn-mosby-sits-on-stage-as-guest-of-honor-for-prince-concert-rally-for-freddie-gray-justice/

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have they even figured out yet how he died? I too don't like a rush to judgement but the way the Blt PD handled it brought it on. Somebody leaked that Gray was in the hospital a week before with a neck injury and that turned out to be an utter fabrication. Stuff like that is what made people rush to that judgement. Somebody knows how he died, probably more than one person, and they ain't sayin shit. That's an egregious violation of anybody's civil rights, something you think conservatives would be up in arms about...but they're not cause he was black and likely "had it coming".

 

I don't understand how a group of people can be so adamant in one sentence that our current govt is coming for our very souls yet incidents like Mr Gray get such an easy pass. If you're worried about how the govt may eventually treat U.S citizens if we devolve to a police state, holy fuck look no further than a guy getting his neck snapped on what's supposed to be a quiet ride to the jailhouse. That's potentially the kind of police state we may end up living in but yet again that gets lost cause liberals go to their corner and conservatives go to theirs and it turns into a boxing match between tired old narratives.

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its not government vs innocent citizens its police officers vs criminals.

 

WSS

 

right because we're not seeing anything like innocent people being released after decades in prison right? That's not happening? Just wait when it does become govt vs citizens. We are one major terrorist attack away from sliding into a 1984 type scenario.

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right because we're not seeing anything like innocent people being released after decades in prison right? That's not happening? Just wait when it does become govt vs citizens. We are one major terrorist attack away from sliding into a 1984 type scenario.

Great. Well you go ahead and stock up on bottled water and C rations.

 

And we regularly hear about supposedly innocent people being released from prison especially thanks to DNA testing. You hear more about, well most normal people here more, about unsolved crimes meaning that criminals are getting away by the thousands. None of these people who have died in police custody have been innocent victims.

 

I understand you lefties are paranoid but they are not political prisoners either.

 

WSS

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its not government vs innocent citizens its police officers vs criminals.

 

WSS

And for the i-don't-know-how-many-th time, just because someone is guilty of a crime, doesn't mean they deserve to die.

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And for the i-don't-know-how-many-th time, just because someone is guilty of a crime, doesn't mean they deserve to die.

You probably don't deserve to die because you smoked a cigarette while you filled your gas tank. You probably don't deserve to die because you got drunk and climbed up the side of a tall building. You probably don't deserve to die if you tried to balance on the railing of a high bridge. You probably don't deserve to die because you attempted to wrestle an alligator or a bear.

 

 

Still....... Maybe you can guess the punchline.

 

WSS

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I think Cleve is just trying to make woody look not so bad.

 

Not workin, but if that is his goal, at least he has some

crazy kind of intent and point to his stuff.

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