Rolling Stone Explains “Why Baltimore Blew Up”

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Freddie Gray
Freddie Gray

A lengthy Rolling Stone article considers Baltimore’s unrest in the context of aggressive Broken Windows policing tactics that began in New York City in the nineties and spread across the country. Much of the blame is laid directly at O’Malley’s doorstep, for the former Baltimore mayor’s statistics-focused Broken Windows offshoot.

The article quotes that particularly mind-blowing statistic from Baltimore’s O’Malley years: In a city of 600,000 people, 108,000 were arrested in a single year. The stat is followed by the familiar critique from The Wire creator David Simon: O’Malley’s technocratic approach “destroyed police work” and was “unsustainable without manipulation.”

But it goes deeper than to harp on the (state-encouraged) behavior of officers on the street. We are shown, through stats and anecdotal stories, how difficult it is to have your illegal-arrest complaint turn into anything. In the process, it becomes clear just how remarkable the charges that State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s brought against police officers involved in Freddie Gray’s arrest really are.

According to Rolling Stone, a major portion of the policing strategy is built upon dubious pretenses for arrests which almost never come back to bite officers, thanks to waivers signed by citizens which preclude suing “for wrongful conduct by reason of [their] arrest, detention, or confinement” in exchange for having bogus charges dropped. The false imprisonment charges facing some of the officers challenge that system:

The legal fight to come will therefore put the entire rationale behind Broken Windows on trial, in the sense that prosecutors will argue — if the case actually makes it to court — that the six officers never should have been doing what police have been asked to do in mass numbers every day for 15 years now.

Read the whole article here.



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  1. This is the most comprehensive analysis of our recent events that I have read. Thank you so much for sharing this. Hope that your readers share it far and wide. We do live in such a divided society!

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