Have you ever heard of Theodore Bush, the 41-year-old shot and killed on April 19? How about 25-year-old Nathan Walker, shot and killed on April 22? It’s likely you haven’t. Do you remember seeing this headline in the news, “Man fatally shot in head in East Baltimore shooting”? Unless you live in Baltimore, these stories probably don’t mean much.
You may be wondering about the significance of April 19 of all days, so allow me to ask a different question: Have you heard of Freddie Gray? Considering Gray’s death made Baltimore the epicenter of media coverage for months, everyone with a television or smartphone has heard the name – so you probably remember that April 19 is the anniversary of his death.
On such a significant day, why is it that we aren’t talking about Bush, Walker, or the four hundred and four reported crimes on the anniversary of Gray’s death? Simple: they didn’t involve a white police officer accused of unjustifiably killing a black individual. For Baltimore police, however, since Gray’s passing it’s been business as usual; you could even say business is booming. Murders like Bush’s and Walker’s are a daily occurrence for police in Baltimore. Crime rates have increased since Gray’s death. The only thing that has changed since Gray is that police are now transmitting to dispatch that their suspect is “seat-belted and secured” when transporting them to jail.
After the trial of the first officer charged in Gray’s death ended in a hung jury, State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby was left questioning herself and the promise of swift justice that she made Gray’s family and the black community of Baltimore. In the meantime, the same black community who rioted in the streets in the name of Gray, continue to come in contact with white police officers on a daily basis. Many activists say it’s because of a history of systemic racism by white police officers. Truth is, racism has been around long before the creation of policing and will always exist in this country. However, racism should not be considered the end-all, scapegoat for every interaction concerning police and the black community.
As a former black police officer, I have often said that crime not color brings police. It’s simple demographics, police are assigned at a higher number where crime is highest. The city of Baltimore’s violent crime rate is 9 percent higher than the entire state as a whole. It has a crime rate of 472 crimes per square mile. The national average median is only 32.8. Statistics would suggest that Baltimore police aren’t racists who have it out for the black community, but rather they’re responding to crime in the black community. Use of Force becomes an integral part of policing in a high crime area, almost inevitable.
I suggest things haven’t changed in Baltimore because leaders in the White House, Democratic hopefuls, and community activists are focusing on the wrong thing. It’s easy to preach systemic racism and demand police reform. However, the true problem is what I call “crimeism” and a need for crime reform. As long as there is crime in the black community, there will be police there to react to it. Instead of demanding police reform for Use of Force, those demanding it should understand the Use of Force Continuum and what it legally allows police to do. Cities like Baltimore, Chicago, and Ferguson will likely end up in the news again the next time a white police officer uses force against a black individual. Until those communities focus on the true problem, it will be just like the saying “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”
Photo by @TraceyWJZ
Vincent Hill is a former police officer turned private investigator, author and weekly podcast host. Vincent has provided expert commentary on the country's top police cases on such networks as CNN, HLN, Al-Jazeera, FoxNews.com, Dr. Drew and many other outlets. He can be reached via Twitter @VincentHillSR or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org