There are eerie similarities between the deaths of Freddie Gray in Baltimore and of Arthur McDuffie in Miami-Dade.
Both suffered violent deaths while in police custody. In both cases the police offered no explanation of what caused the fatal injuries. And in both cases, community outrage boiled over into street violence.
One difference is that the rioting in Miami happened after the criminal justice system turned out to be more criminal than just and exonerated the officers who killed Mr. McDuffie. The protests in Baltimore started within days.
In a perverse sense, that could be called progress but it is not the progress anyone wants to see. But there is an obvious reason for it. It is that instead of more respectful police officers and better policing, black America has been dismayed to see worsening disrespect towards young African-American males and a growth in the number of trigger happy officers.
That is due directly to the wider application of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that virtually gives cart blanche to the police to shoot and kill people, mainly blacks with impunity — so long as they say they fear for their lives.
That has been the officers’ defense as the number of clearly unjustified use of deadly force by the police has grown.
It has not helped that officers get off this way even when the incidents are caught on camera.
Nobody wants to see the rioting that has taken place most recently in Baltimore. Violence solves no good purpose whether it is violence from the police or violence by deeply frustrated Americans who are fed up with law enforcement treating them as less than third class citizens.
Indeed, street violence in today’s America has the result of immediately shifting the focus from the criminal behavior of the police, which sets off the incidents in the first place, to the criminal behavior of the rioters. The latest example is what is happening in real time in Baltimore. The same governor of Maryland who swiftly ordered the National Guard into Baltimore is the same governor who obviously turned a blind eye to the numerous complaints from citizens about police brutality, by some reports more than 100 in 2013 alone. As it was in Ferguson, Missouri, another flashpoint of police misconduct, so it is in Baltimore, Maryland.
The tragedy is that the community violence can be only expected to worsen, if not in Baltimore then in the next confrontation precipitated somewhere in America.
As some protesters were heard to say, “We got your attention now.”
Until America takes seriously the ongoing complaints by African Americans against police, until laws are changed to achieve genuine fairness regardless of race, and until police officer’s Blue Wall of Silence becomes pierced by integrity and destroyed, frustrations and anger will continue to mount. Addressing these concerns promptly and effectively is fundamental to creating at least the basis for community trust in the people for whom the badge and gun are suppose to protect.