This correspondent abhors violence in any form, let alone what is happening on the streets of Baltimore. But he concludes that civil unrest may be the only way to provoke meaningful and lasting police reform, including an end to the rampant brutality that has been part and parcel of policing in Baltimore and too many other big American cities. (It is highly likely that in the very dead Freddie Gray’s case, police took him for what they derisively call a “nickel ride.”)
Face it, folks, do-gooder reports aren’t getting the job done.
Will Philadelphia be next? As I wrote at my home blog in January:
“I saw enough bad police behavior to last several lifetimes during the 21 years I worked for one of Philadelphia’s two major daily newspapers. This did not make the unjustified and widely publicized killings of black men by police officers in a St. Louis suburb and on Staten Island in the year past any less vile. It merely reconfirmed for me that until the police in this country are brought under control, there can be no racial rapprochement. . . .
“During my two-plus decades in Philadelphia, officers routinely brutalized criminal suspects and innocents alike with little likelihood of their being sanctioned by their department, let alone charged with criminal offenses. Efforts to reform the department through blue-ribbon panels, task forces and legislative fiats came and went with the seasons and today, 13 years after I left the City of Brotherly Love, its police department remains deeply corrupt and rogue officers — taking advantage of a powerful police union, weak laws and compliant district attorneys — continue to terrorize the communities they are sworn to protect.”
How else other than civil unrest to bring attention to and provoke action on this hitherto intractable issue — which has been so much background noise for far too long?