The Baltimore City Police Department has announced that one of their own has been suspended with pay and is currently under investigation for excessive use of force during an arrest. The incident began when a 14-year-old boy was spotted driving a stolen car. Officers of the city police force’s auto theft unit got wind of the whereabouts of the stolen vehicle being operated by the unlicensed driver and began their pursuit. Just minutes into the chase the inexperienced driver lost control of the car and went head on into a concrete curb, which briefly sent the vehicle airborne. The car then crashed into another parked vehicle in a commercial lot and came to its final stop. Seconds later multiple police cars arrived on scene, and with guns drawn pulled the juvenile out of the heavily damaged vehicle. As the boy was pulled out of the vehicle and surrounded by close to ten police officers, another officer ran up and appeared to strike the boy after he had been detained. Seconds later the same officer appeared to stand over and strike the boy once again. The only reason that this information has come to light is the fact that the entire incident was caught on video by a news helicopter. The helicopter began following the stolen car before it ran a curb and went crashing into a vehicle. The helicopter then stopped overhead and zoomed in on the boy being pulled out of the car.
The deputy commissioner of the police force came out within in a day of the incident with a public address, stating that the force does not tolerate its own breaking the law in order to enforce the laws. He also explained the suspension by stating it was the department’s way of being proactive and launching it’s own investigation before a formal complaint could be filed. But union spokesmen disagree with the quick response of the department, stating that the suspension was premature. The union cited that the helicopter video does not clearly and definitively depict the officer actually striking the boy. For this reason it is their position that a full investigation should have been conducted before any suspension was levied.
Readers should view the video themselves at wbal.com and make their own decision, but it is clear that the officer at least made several attempts to strike the 14-year-old boy when he was on the ground. And at the time the officer ran up to the boy the scene had been controlled and no officers were in any danger. This type of behavior by a police officer is far from rare, and after years of practicing criminal defense and hearing to same stories over and over again they begin to reign true. The sobering truth is that anyone who is given power has the tendency to abuse that power. The power of the badge gives some police officers the idea that they can break the law without suffering any consequences. In cases of police brutality this is usually true because it becomes the defendant’s word against the cop’s word. But the tables are turned when a news helicopter or bystander happens to catch an officer acting out on video. It would be nice to think that these incidents appearing on our television screens would at least serve as a wakeup call for cops and police departments, but unfortunately the power of the badge can be blinding, and some officers will continue to abuse this power.
Benjamin Herbst is a theft lawyer practicing criminal defense in all Maryland jurisdictions. Contact Benjamin at The Herbst Firm for a free consultation.