And some wonder why there is so much anger

While the death of Michael Brown sparked protests in Ferguson, it was the result of lawsuits and the release of investigative reports that revealed the extent of the police abuses in that town and others.

The same thing is true of Baltimore. Its police department is one of the largest in the country (eighth largest even though the city is the 27th largest) and has a reputation for brutality. It has paid out nearly $6 million in settlements to the public since 2011 for beating up people. The Baltimore Sun looked into the cases that led to the payouts.

On a cold January afternoon, Jerriel Lyles parked his car in front of the P&J Carry Out on East Monument Street and darted inside to buy some food. After paying for a box of chicken, he noticed a big guy in jeans, a hooded sweatshirt and a baseball cap.

“What’s up?” the man said to Lyles. Others, also dressed in jeans and hoodies, blocked the door to the street — making Lyles fear that he would be robbed. Instead, the man identified himself a police officer, frisked Lyles and demanded he sit on the greasy floor. Lyles objected.

“The officer hit me so hard it felt like his radio was in his hand,” Lyles testified about the 2009 incident, after suing Detective David Greene. “The blow was so heavy. My eyes swelled up. Blood was dripping down my nose and out my eye.”

The Baltimore detective offered a different version of events in court, saying that Lyles’ injuries might have resulted from poking himself in the face. He also couldn’t say why officers stopped Lyles, who was not charged with any crime.

But jurors didn’t buy the officer’s explanation. They ruled in Lyles’ favor, and the court ultimately ordered the city to pay him $200,000, the statutory limit in Maryland for most lawsuits against a municipality.

Over the past four years, more than 100 people have won court judgments or settlements related to allegations of brutality and civil rights violations. Victims include a 15-year-old boy riding a dirt bike, a 26-year-old pregnant accountant who had witnessed a beating, a 50-year-old woman selling church raffle tickets, a 65-year-old church deacon rolling a cigarette and an 87-year-old grandmother aiding her wounded grandson.

Those cases detail a frightful human toll. Officers have battered dozens of residents who suffered broken bones — jaws, noses, arms, legs, ankles — head trauma, organ failure, and even death, coming during questionable arrests. Some residents were beaten while handcuffed; others were thrown to the pavement.

You can read the individual stories of the grandmother, pregnant accountant, church worker, and deacon mentioned above. They are horrifying. Most of the victims were black.

The police usually justify their actions by later charging the victims with obstruction, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, and assault.. thus necessitating the use of force I have learned to be very skeptical whenever I hear people accused of such things.

What is surprising is why this explosion did not happen sooner.


  1. Great American Satan says

    Why not sooner? Because good guys don’t seek violence, they respond (and not always in good ways, I admit) when violence is brought to them. It’s the reason right wingers are the ones doing mass shootings and pushing for war and doing political assassinations. Look at the horrible dehumanizing bile spewed by right wing politicians and talking heads for pretty much the whole history of the US, and wonder why it’s only when politicians have done something good that they get assassinated. It’s because the side that’s first to violence is the bad guys. In this case, unequivocally the police.

  2. says

    I don’t know if you’ve seen the latest but it’s now coming out that:
    -- the cops stopped the van for some reason, and neglected to mention that.
    -- another guy who was in the back of the van claims that the victim was trying to hurt himself.

    So it’s starting to sound like maybe the cops stopped to go for some donuts, or maybe to go give the guy in the back a bit more of a beating, and have found someone who they can lean on to concoct a crazy story about someone breaking his own neck in hopes of getting a payout. Or something.

    It’s fucking ridiculous. Burn, baby, burn.

  3. says

    What is surprising is why this explosion did not happen sooner.

    The Palestinians were patient for twenty years. It was that long after the terrorism of occupation began before the first acts of the PLO took place. And the same can be said of Somali pirates who were also patient for years. Europeans had been illegally fishing in their waters long before the first hijackings happened. In both cases, the UN and other countries did nothing when legal means were used to ask for help. And when the UN and others finally did act, their actions and words weren’t aimed at those who caused the problem, they were aimed at those exposing it.

    People are patient and willing to let “the system” work. Violence is the last resort of people when they can’t get legal redress (with the exception of fanatics, e.g. the murderers of Charlie Hebdo, terrorists who bomb abortion clinics). Violence is abhorrent, but it’s easy to empathize with them.

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