To study the patterns of media umbranoshes and outrages, it seems the more one knows the less one understands. Try to make sense of rioting in the streets over the totally justified actions of the Police in the Michael Brown shooting, versus the comparative community silence surrounding an incident where a Baltimore policeman’s body cam caught a team of officers planting a bag of heroin on an african-american man. Riots never solve anything, but some police outrages are more riotous than others.

Forget, for the scope of this article, the laughably simple legal point of the police burden in proving that the baggie of heroin found in the garbage belonged to the framee; it was “found” when the Officers were doing a car stop, it could have been anyone’s. Does the framee /perp/patsy have a legal obligation to search the garbage pile of the area he is parked in? Since about 10,000 BC, holders of contraband have known the trick of hiding it somewhere near them. It seems ridiculous to think that the police could have proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the patsy was the owner of the skag, assuming it all went to court, which, nowadays, is also laughable. But of course, had the patsy the resources for a lawyer, he’d never be found guilty. States’ failure to provide proper council to those who can’t afford it is becoming a crisis. Fraud and incompetence in this drug war machine-like incarceration has, in fact, been rampant (web searches reveal both of these links the tip of this issue iceberg). Our theory of law is in conflict with the reality of what we can afford.

Here seems a good place to raise the “idle hands are the Devil’s workshop” aphorism: confrontation with a community must follow from teams of police driving about looking for trouble, especially combined with what seem to be “productivity goals.” Add in the fact that Baltimore is a leading city in using fines to raise revenue to support the police, and see that one incident of evidence planting should be seen as the least of the problem.

There is so much to parse here: why is the narrowing tax base of Baltimore supporting such teams of cops with no crimes better fought? This, in contrast with Baltimore’s low murder closure rate (less than 38%) has long been a gong of mine. It’s hard for this scribbler to escape the conclusion that there is no revenue to be gathered solving murders; no statistics of low level arrest to churn; that cops can farm street junkies the way gatherers know a berry patch might have filled in again.

It’s also worthy to wonder how legal-criminals such as these could have had a career upholding the law-and-order interests of a major city; “jump out boy” teams are always made up of salty cops, well into their careers, who definitely know better.

Also in need of reform is the contrast between the exquisite police union privileges and protections and the hook of liability the tax payers are on for their behavior. The Freddie Gray incident cost Baltimore $6.4 million. That’s 6.4 paramedic staffed ambulances for a year (using New York City averages). The many lives lost to this misallocation also should make the crime against Freddie Gray seem like the least of the problem.

There are many ideas out there on how to square this particular circle. Mine would involve the need for police misconduct insurance to be underwritten by a portion of the police pension fund. This would normalize interests among union members, and align culture with risk mitigation. After all, I am liable for the mistakes I make at work, as is just about every other American who does not work for the government.

Another facet of the police crime is the origin of the planted evidence. Where did the heroin come from? Do the police cruise about with a bag of skag for the dropping when the day goes slow?

And for added outrage fun (my umbrages are never small as a nosh) let’s remember the overall dysfunction of the Baltimore police department’s astonishing resistance to reform (or is it actually high functionality for BPD’s talent for turning the need for reform into a reach into their taxpayers’ wallets to fund their re-training programs)?

I have yet to see the media delve into the possible motivations of the officers on why they might casually do something so astonishing (but I can hear some of my paramedic colleagues of color who live in ghettos whispering in my ear that it’s not so amazing as you think; you’re just now seeing it with the magic of technology). I have insight as a “municipal man” that gives me a certain street level perspective as to why this violation of humanity, oath and public trust happened. So, here goes, inviting readers to their serving of a grain of salt:

Cops will not rise to frame out of a general meanness or racism. If they regularly made their mission the general destruction of races of color they could not take ten steps beyond their station house (accusations of general police racism, in my opinion, confuse cause and effect). Cops want to get through the day as painlessly and effortlessly as possible. On some level, this is totally understandable; aggressive policing brings risks to life, health and career. I saw this attitude in the first years of my career where my partner was dating a cop, and we would regularly gather for breakfast with him and his partner in a Times Square diner, around 4 AM. It was funny that there was this unspoken truce in the confines of the diner, with the pimps and whores, which reminded me of the Wile E. Coyote cartoon with the sheepdog. My partner’s boyfriend went to the bathroom, and his partner spoke of the trial of working with “Robocop, always stirring up trouble and shit.” “Isn’t fighting crime what you’re supposed to be doing?” I said, unintentionally doing my Lil Abner country rube impersonation. “Hell no. I’ve gotten pepper spray blow back, like three times working with that asshole.” “He get written up?” Of course not.” And this was nigh on thirty years ago.

The only explanation that makes sense to me is a “juke” having to do with productivity matrices.

Here, again, is a New York Times editorial calling for the continued practice of entrepreneurial law enforcement. This, despite the fact that the police reduced their activity by 90%, and there was no uptick in true-blue, all-American, old school crime like rapine, robbery, assault and whatnot. This was, in my opinion, one of the most important, albeit unintentional, social-policy experiments in New York City in the last generation.

This interview with an ex Baltimore Policeman is worth watching in its entirety.

How can you tell there are too many police? They run out of real police work to do, and start to respond to pressure to “show productivity,” rather than being productive. How can you tell that? When the police inexplicably manufacture low level frame-ups for no sensible reason. In man’s history no government organization has offered they have too many people and can be sensibly reduced (or replaced by overworked paramedics).

So, when the Baltimore police chief vows to retrain his men again, in wisdom and judgement, we civilians must realize wisdom and judgement and empathy are in conflict with the city goal of revenue productivity through Sheriff-of-Nottingham tickets and fines. There can be no wisdom and judgement that is not conjugal with the requirements of the environment. The conclusion must follow that what is police wisdom and judgement are at odds with what a dying city needs if it wants to help the lesser of her people.

Eugene Darden Nicholas

About Eugene Darden Nicholas

Eugene Darden (Ed) Nicholas is from Flushing Queens, where he grew up sheltered from the hard world, learning the true things after graduating college and becoming a paramedic in Harlem. School continues to inform and entertain in all its true, Shakespearean glory. It's a lot of fun, really. In that career, dozens of people walk the earth now who would not be otherwise. (The number depends on how literally or figuratively you choose to add). He added a beloved wife to his little family, which is healthy. He is also well blessed in friends and colleagues.


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