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Rawlings-Blake on maced protester: “I haven’t seen the full video”

Police "stand behind" an officer's actions in a protest, but are investigating officer who fired through a cruiser window, wounding a disabled man.

srb cherry picker

After helping to install the first of 33 new crime cameras in Northeast Baltimore, Mayor Rawlings-Blake was asked questions about a videotape showing a protester being maced.

Photo by: Fern Shen

Baltimore’s mayor and police commissioner were a little vague today about the videotaped arrest of a jobs protester who is seen prone, with officers kneeling on his back, macing him repeatedly point-blank in the face.

“No,” said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, asked if she’d seen the video of the March 29th incident being shown by local activists this week. “I haven’t seen the full video.”

Rawlings-Blake said she is “always concerned when issues are raised about police officers’ conduct” and noted that procedures are in place to investigate them.

Likewise, Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III pointed to the department’s “commitment to the recruitment of police officers of high caliber” and noted its procedures for investigating complaints of abuse.

But he would not answer specific questions about the instances of alleged abusive behavior condemned by activists this week.

“If cops do dumb stuff we’re going to hold them accountable,” Bealefeld said, questioned today, along with the mayor, at a press event held to promote the installation of 33 new crime cameras in Northeast Baltimore.

“Getting Arrested Is Not A Pleasant Thing”

Answering the specific questions fell to police public affairs director Anthony J. Guglielmi. Asked if the officers are facing any investigation or punishment in the case of the videotaped arrest of demonstrator Thomas Threatt, he said, “No one has filed a complaint about it!”

A complaint will be filed with the Civilian Review Board, said Sharon Black, an organizer for the group All Peoples Congress.

Black and Rev. Cortly C.D. Witherspoon, head of the local chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, organized a press event yesterday about the arrest of Threatt, the shooting of a disabled West Baltimore man – by an officer who fired out of his cruiser window – and the general issue of police misconduct in Baltimore.

Guglielmi said “we stand behind the officers” involved in Threatt’s arrest near the East Baltimore Development Inc. (EBDI) project. Guglielmi said police got a call that demonstrators were blocking construction equipment.

Guglielmi said it was necessary to arrest Threatt because he resisted their order to move and that the arrest was properly conducted.

“It’s tough for you and others to look at this and see everything. [The videotape] doesn’t show his hands, for instance,” Guglielmi said. “Getting arrested is not a pleasant thing.”

Officer Fired Through Window

Guglielmi acknowledged that police are investigating the April 10 incident in which a disabled man, David Yim, was shot in the abdomen by an officer who fired his weapon through his cruiser window.

Regarding the officer, Guglielmi said that “he is not suspended, he was put on administrative leave” for 45 days pending an investigation of the incident by the city homicide squad and Internal Affairs Division. Guglielmi said that process is routine for a police-involved shooting “and  is not disciplinary. It’s a cooling-off period.”

In this case, police received a call about “a mentally disturbed person with knives” in the 1200 block of Oakhurst Place, he said. “The officer saw the individual coming out of an alley with butcher knives and followed him.”

Eyewitnesses at yesterday’s news conference have filed affadavits with the group that say Yim walks with difficulty, has a paralyzed arm, did not have anything in his hands and was on the porch of a house when the officer caught up with him and fired.

Guglielmi confirmed that Yim was shot through the window by the police officer, Frederick E. Murray, but declined to offer more details since the incident is being investigated.

Murray has a history of facing similar allegations.

In May of last year, a Baltimore City Circuit Court jury awarded compensatory damages of $95,000 to a man who said Murray and other officers threw him to the ground and assaulted him in front of his home.

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  • Unellu

    My god, it is a cooling off period for the cops but for the man who was shot in the belly medical troubles are just beginning. The surfeit of crime dramas on the boob tube exalt cops, making them heroes.  But most cops are struggling with demons and some are very similar to the criminals they chase.  Many are taking power trips in their cruisers.  Community policing is dead.  To the cops citizens are enemies.  BCPD cops need some zen and less trigger happy tendencies but the BCPD’s upper echelon does not help when it whitewashes serious incidents–the slow moving internal investigations, the administrative leave, the temporary suspensions are all forerunners of cover ups and defensive lies.  They stand like bulwark together–the men in blue and they are losing the respect of the citizens they are charged to protect.  They are drawn to the innocents like moths to light and abuse runs rampant.  If the BCPD got rid of the miscreants, felons and criminals among its own ranks it will be whittled down by a good 60%.  For the politicians that will be a good 80%.  When compared to the politicians it serves–note, ordinary citizens be damned–the BCPD is golden and that should gladden the BCPD’s heart.   

    • http://profiles.google.com/jamiehunt344 James Hunt

       Unella wrote:

      ” … If the BCPD got rid of the miscreants, felons and criminals among its
      own ranks it will be whittled down by a good 60%.  For the politicians
      that will be a good 80%. …”

      +++++++++++++++++++++++++

      Fun with numbers. Got a study you can cite, or are you just winging it here? Must be nice on that throne of yours, casting judgments on people en masse.

  • Ktrueheart

    “If cops do dumb stuff we’re going to hold them accountable,” Bealefeld said.  Well Commissioner Bealefeld I hope the same applies to those command level cops who do dumb stuff too??? Seems BPD has way too much money which is continuously mis-spent sending tactically equipped units to threaten peaceful demonstrators … when all that’s needed are traffic cops to escort peaceful marchers.  Protect and serve doesn’t appear to be a standing order of the BPD these days.  Baltimore has never had a history of violent street protests, so it puzzles me to understand the rationale for deploying tactical assault teams as a standing policy … $7M in O/T seems excessive to me.  Maybe I’ll get an answer to this question at the upcoming BPD budget hearing with the City Council on May 9th? I’ve asked my Councilwoman to consider a 10% cut in the BPD budget so these funds can be reallocated to fund positive youth development programs.

    • RVijayan

      Some misinformed people would argue that Balitore has no violent street protests because of these tactical units. When 12%  of Baltimore elects its Mayor and Council, this is what we get. Think of the way BPD treats alleged crime perpetrators, especially in some struggling neighborhoods.     

      • Flintsparc

        There isn’t going to be another mayor election until 2016.  
        We’ve got the current mayor until 2017.  Given that, can we focus on what we can do before then in terms of turning up the heat on city officials.  

        • Zxm2

          recall election?

  • Stephen

    I’m not under the false assumption that all police officers are angels, but (at least in the video) it seems pretty clear that Threatt is resisting arrest. He’s trying to buck the cops off his back and he keeps moving his arms around, even after he’s been maced directly in the face. Whether the arrest was warranted or not, only an idiot would actively resist being arrested; no good can come from it.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=23707786 Lisa Jenkins

       we are now in a police state, where you can be arrested and detained for no reason. I think you should be more worried about that than anything. I can’t turn on the news without hearing of innocent bystanders being detained, or shot, or see video of it by the over-authoritarian police forces. and, if YOU felt you were being unjustly arrested, I am pretty sure you would have an immediate reaction like he did.

    • BrewFan1

      Macing someone who is restrained on the ground is a vicious act–it is likely to produce agitated withdrawal leading to a more violent police response. Both of the officers administering the mace should be disciplined and re-trained–there were plenty of officers around who could have overwhelmed the protester and cuffed and moved him if this was their goal. The protester should sue to trigger re-training by the city.  

    • GlenW

      You’d be moving your arms around after getting maced too.

    • Christadaring

       As someone who has been maced by police at point-blank range before, I can tell you that after if happens all your body will try to do is get your hands to your face. Every part of your brain body is screaming for you to rub your eyes, it might look like resisting arrest, but I (and everyone I’ve ever seen get maced) cannot control it. And police know that.

    • RVijayan

      If Threatt was resisting arrest then proportional force should be used but the video shows us that excessive force is used. When a person is maced, it feels as though the eyes are burning and one will instinctively try anything possible to get some relief.    

    • Colleen

      I can see you have never been maced in the face… Well let me tell you when that happens it is excruciatingly painful and triggers a reflex for your hands to come up and protect your face.  Also, the cops are constantly targeting people of color, beating and killing for no reason. If you grew up in a community where you lost several members of your friends and family to police brutality and then was attacked by a cop yourself, you would probably freak out and resist too.

  • Unellu

    No throne James Hunt–just the humble ground from which I am watching the never ending stream of corruption scandals–extrapolate from the ones who are caught–John Edwards, Leopold, Barry, Dixon–endless–if you take the ones caught and calculate that the ones not caught are legion and if you also absorb the simple fact that there is a culture of corruption that allows the ones who are caught to do what they do–well, there you have it.  I doubt anyone has the strength to keep statistics about this constant flow of scandals.  May be you can do it for us from your humble abode and we’ll be the better informed for your accurate math. 

    • http://profiles.google.com/jamiehunt344 James Hunt

      Unella wrote: ” … if you take the ones caught and calculate that the ones not caught are legion and if you also absorb the simple fact that there is a culture of corruption that allows the ones who are caught to do what they do–well, there you have it. …”

      ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

      Okay, so you have no data on corruption in law enforcement and politics, but you _think_ most of them are corrupt and just haven’t been caught. Well, alrighty then. Carry on.

  • jonny

    Hmm, when will the mayor decide it’s her job to see the whole video?  Meanwhile Bealefield resigns.  Good start.

  • Zxm

    maybe the police are installing the cameras to patrol themselves? seems like the most beneficial use of anyway

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