Inappropriate Response To Police Detective's Death Reveals Baltimore's Dark Underbelly

Inappropriate Response To Police Detective's Death Reveals Baltimore's Dark Underbelly

Ordinary citizens should receive the same level of grief as police officers.

On November 16, a Baltimore City Police Detective named Sean Suiter was killed on the job.

His death has spurred much heartbreak and outrage in Baltimore, as well as arguably unconstitutional activity by the police. Ultimately, his death has revealed our city’s dark underbelly.

At the end of the day, someone was killed. Sean Suiter was a married father of five, and my heart goes out to his family. No one deserves to have a loved one ripped away from them in such a cruel and sudden way. Everything to follow in this article bears this in mind, and means no disrespect to the memory of the fallen or the loved ones he leaves behind.

But the fact is that this incident of violence – and the city’s response to it – reveals an astounding double standard when it comes to who and how we as a city grieve, how we view crime, and ultimately whose lives (and deaths) we value.

Baltimore is currently experiencing the highest homicide rates it's seen in years, with over 300 people having been killed so far in 2017. The intersection where Suiter was found dead has been the site of over a dozen shootings and killings in recent years.

When ordinary Baltimore residents – oftentimes young black men in disenfranchised neighborhoods – are killed, we move on like nothing ever happened. When a police officer is killed, it makes headlines across the state, a $215,000 reward is set in place for whoever finds the suspect, and police officers occupy the block where he was killed while wearing bullet-proof vests and openly carrying weapons, vowing to do whatever it takes to find the perpetrator.

Quite the contrast, no?

BPD Police Commissioner Kevin Davis acknowledges this disparity, but justifies it by saying: “When a cop is killed, that goes way beyond that murder. It’s an attack on American policing…Policing exists to serve our unique democracy, so that’s why the murder of a cop always has been and always will be something that’s absolutely unacceptable in a free society.” (Quote from the Baltimore Sun.)

I do not believe this to be a satisfying argument.

This might feel like a satisfactory response if Baltimore policing did indeed serve our unique democracy and if Baltimore police officers were known to protect the safety and liberties of the people. But the reality is that the Baltimore Police Department is known to be a corrupt and discriminatory institution. While there are certainly good cops who wish to make Baltimore safer, their efforts have clearly not been effective this year, as our crime rates are soaring.

While some may argue that this murder is different than those between ordinary civilians because regular residents killed throughout the year are more likely to be involved in illegal activity, talk to many Baltimore residents and they will tell you that police officers are just as likely – if not more likely – to be criminals than ordinary citizens.

This belief is not unfounded. After all, the U.S. Department of Justice’s 2015 investigation into the Baltimore Police Department concluded in what has been described as a damning report, saying: “We found that BPD has engaged in a pattern or practice of serious violations of the U.S. Constitution and federal law that has disproportionately harmed Baltimore’s African-American community and eroded the public’s trust in the police.”

While a consent decree was reached in a binding effort to address the deep-seated issues in the BPD, Baltimore residents have not exactly been given great reason to believe that it’s working. Since this consent decree, there have been several scandals within the Baltimore Police Department, from video footage of cops planting drugs, to federal indictments of several officers for robbing civilians of over $280,000 over the course of five years.

Just this month Officer Caesar Goodman Jr. received zero administrative consequences for being involved in the killing of Freddie Gray.

The police are ruthless; we know this to be true. As Keith Davis Jr.’s story tells us, they are especially ruthless when they are covering their tracks. This has led many Baltimore residents to question whether there’s something more happening beneath the surface in this case.

Why and how would an officer, an 18-year veteran, be killed with his own gun? And what was the “suspicious” behavior the officers observed that caused them to approach the supposed gunman?

Often, in Baltimore, being poor and black is enough for one to be labeled “suspicious.”

I personally am worried that the BPD will go to any lengths to say they have found the perpetrator, even if it means carelessly framing someone for a crime they did not commit. This could especially prove true if there was some foul play happening between these officers and the suspects.

I could be wrong; after all, I know very little about this man. But it remains true that the absolute, unquestioned reverence with which Suiter has been immediately treated by Baltimore is in stark contrast with the ambivalence most victims of violence in this city receive.

There is no reason for a neighborhood to become a militarized occupied territory. Residents should not have to show their IDs every time they want to enter their own homes or endure having their doors knocked on multiple times a day or being patted down by police officers.

Quite frankly? The occupation of the Harlem Park neighborhood feels less like a reputable institution carrying out a search for justice, and much more like an illegal gang terrorizing ordinary people in an effort to reassert their bruised dominance.

I called my mother and she said to me: “If the BPD cared about police brutality as much as they care about this, the issue would be over. Police violence would be no longer be a problem.”

She’s right.

If the BPD, and all Baltimore City elected officials, cared about ordinary citizens – especially black citizens – as much as they care about the police, our crime rates would be exponentially smaller. The victims of the 300+ homicides in Baltimore this year would have received just as much attention and compassion as Detective Suiter.

But Baltimore has made itself clear. The police, the government, and many of its (white) residents value the lives of police officers far more than they’ve ever cared about Baltimore’s ordinary people.

It’s time for this to end. Stop the police from terrorizing every-day citizens as they try to go about their lives. Maybe take some of that $215,000 reward and put it towards Baltimore City schools, or also finding the perpetrators of some of the other tragic shootings that have occurred this year.

As I said at the beginning of this article, my heart goes out to the loved ones of Sean Suiter, it really does. But enough is enough. To use the death of a police detective as an excuse to justify unconstitutional activity, such as we have seen in West Baltimore, is abhorrent. To pay attention to soaring homicide rates only when it affects those in positions of power is disgusting.

Baltimore has a dark underbelly. This week it has been revealed once again, for all to see.

Cover Image Credit: The Baltimore Sun

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Your 5-Step Guide To Making Your Voice Heard On Gun Control

For everyone who wants to make a change, but doesn't know where to start.

On February 14th, 2018, America faced a tragedy. 17 students, teachers, and faculty at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida lost their lives to a mass shooter. A pattern is arising in America, and now more than ever is the issue of gun control a strong debate. Is now the right time to talk about this, when so many families are grieving their children? If we are talking about this, how can I, as one person, make any difference?

If you, like many other people, are concerned about when/how to use your voice, take some time to read this.

When is the right time to speak up?

There have been various debates and public outcry over the idea of talking about gun control so soon. The ethics behind the way we as citizens handle tragedies has been questioned since Wednesday afternoon, and a good amount of American citizens believe that it's disrespectful to the victims and their families to bring politics into the discussion so soon.

Many other people have taken to Twitter to voice their opinions, passionate about how gun control is a conversation that needs to be said sooner than later.

While it may be easy to think that you're respecting the wishes of the student population at Douglas by simply sending "thoughts and prayers," the students themselves would have to disagree. Stoneman Douglas students, faculty, and alumni are not only stating very explicitly the importance of having these types of conversations, but have also organized school walk-outs, marches, and various interviews about the topic of gun control.

Now that I know when to speak up, how do I take action?

1. Donate

Here are links to various GoFundMe's/donation pages/merchandise you can buy, and where the money you donate will be going:

Love MSD: This organization is selling t-shirts for $20 dollars each, with all of the proceeds going to victims families, first responders, and Stoneman Douglas High School memorial fund.

3HeartStrings: Three teenage girls from South Florida are making a difference with their fabric bracelets. 100% of the proceeds will go to charity, and all MSD-themed bracelets are $5.

Broward County GoFundMe: The GoFundMe page created by the Broward County school district has already raised almost 1.9 million dollars, but you can help them get to their goal of $2 million. All proceeds will be used to provide relief and financial support to the victims and their families.

Donate blood: OneBlood has been in urgent need of O-neg blood that will be used to help the victims who are still in need of assistance. If you are in/around the Parkland area, consider finding a donation station near you.

Swim For Nick: The family of one of the 17 victims, Nicholas Dworet, have set up a donation page where all proceeds will go to TS aquatics as they start a foundation in memory of Nicholas called "Swim For Nick."

Alex Schachter: The Schachter family has set up this donation page in memory of their son Alex, one of the victims. All proceeds will go to MSD Marching Eagles, the marching band where Alex loved to play the trombone.

Meadow Pollack: This fund, created by the friends and family of victim Meadow Pollack, has been created in order to help Meadow's single mother Shara with funeral expenses and counseling.

Support for Missy and Maddy: The family and friends of Missy and Maddy Wilford have created a GoFundMe to help the mother and daughter. Maddy was injured in the shooting, and all donations will go towards the Wilford family's immediate needs.

Martin Duque: This page, created by the brother of victim Martin Dugue, will ensure that all of Martin's extended family will be able to make his funeral, even those relatives who live as far away as Mexico.

Alyssa Alhadeff: The friends and loved ones of victim Alyssa Alhadeff's family have created this page to collect funds for the Alhadeff family as they struggle to find peace during this difficult time.

For the Hixons: Chris Hixon lost his life after being injured in the shooting. He was a faculty member of MSD, and all donations will be used at the discretion of the Hixon family.

Joaquin Oliver: This page was created for the family of victim Joaquin Oliver, with all donations going to the family.

In Honor of Our Fallen Hero: The Douglas Gridiron Club, the booster program for MSD football, has set up this GoFundMe in honor of athletic director and MSD factulty member Aaron Feis. All proceeds will go directly to the Feis family.

UF to DC: The student body of the University of Florida are raising money to send students to the "March For Our Lives" protest in Washington D.C. on March 24th. All donations will ensure that every student that wants to gets transportation to Washington, and any surplus money will be donated to the Broward County GoFundMe page mentioned above.

Lives Before Guns: Lives Before Guns was created by young adults in South Florida as a platform to provide support and resources to mass shooting victims and their families.

**This list has been updated as of 2/21/18 and will be continuously updated as more resources arise**

2. Get in touch with representatives

First of all, you need to know who to call. Here is a list of every congress member being paid by the NRA to vouch for support for more lenient gun laws, as well as a list of representatives in Florida that voted against the possibility of introducing a conversation about the current gun laws in place in Florida:

Now that you know who to speak to, here's how to contact Congress:

Capitol switchboard phone number: (202)-224-3121

Call the number above, and tell the operator which representative you wish to speak to. You want to find which representative from YOUR STATE you want to speak to, because your call won't count if you're not a resident of that state.You'll then be connected to someone from the office of the representative you wish to speak to. Simply give them your message for the representative, and your voice will be heard

Try to use specifics that pertain to you personally. Talk about which laws you'd like to see put into place, and how the decisions made by your representatives will be affecting your future voting.

**This website is a great resource on how to write a letter to your representatives if you'd prefer that over making a phone call**

3. Take to the streets

A great way to make your voice heard is to join the thousands of people who are staging walk-outs, protests, and marches advocating for gun control. Here are some upcoming events:

March 14th, 2018: National School Walkout

The people who organized Women's March have called upon high school students and faculty to make their voices heard by staging a high school walkout. On March 14th at 10 a.m., high school students throughout the country will walk out of their classrooms for 17 minutes.

March 24th, 2018: March For Our Lives

Created by the student body of Stoneman Douglas, a nationwide march will be held to end gun violence and mass shootings in schools. The main march will be held in Washington D.C., but marches will also be planned in various communities across the country at the same time. Subscribe to their website to find out more information on how to participate.

April 20th, 2018: National School Walkout

Connecticut high school student Lane Murdock is in the process of organizing a high school walkout on the 19th anniversary of the Columbine shooting. Plans are still in the air but a petition has been created (and has almost reached it's goal of 150 thousand signatures), and they have an official Twitter page.

Various spontaneous walkouts have also been popping up since the 14th, so be on the lookout for a march near you. Here is a list of all the schools in South Florida that have staged a walkout.

**This list has been updated as of 2/21/18 and will be continuously updated as more resources arise**

4. VOTE!

One of the main reasons our country isn't seeing any change in policy is due to the people we have in office. Luckily, midterm elections are coming up this November and we have the power to vote the wrong people out of office, and the right people in. If you are currently 18 years old or will be by November 6th and you haven't registered to vote, you should do so as soon as possible.

Here is a link that will give you everything you need to know to register to vote. Use the resources above to research which representatives are being given money by the NRA and/or are voting against gun reform laws.

5. Never stop

Never in history has our generation had so much passion for an issue such as gun control. The #NeverAgain movement was created by Stoneman Douglas student Cameron Kasky to ensure that the shooting at Douglas will be the last mass school shooting America will have to face. Join the conversation on Twitter with the #NeverAgain hashtag, and make your opinions heard. We must not stand stagnant and assume that we can't make a difference because this past week has proven that we can.

Now is the time to stand in solidarity with Kasky and everyone else affected by the Douglas shooting. Now is the time to use our voice. Now is the time to make a change. Never again.

Cover Image Credit: Anthony Boucher

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America Is The Most Dangerous Wealthy Country For Children

Let’s hope people begin to care more about the lives of American children than an NRA check.

America isn’t safe for your children. Not anymore.

We aren’t as bad as most developing countries but, given that we are supposed to be a major world power and the shining example of ideal living in the world, we’re looking bad. People should want to flock to this country.

Other countries should emulate their way of living after us. Instead, other developed countries shake their heads at us as we grapple with excessive gun violence, higher infant mortality rates, and a high rate of motor vehicle deaths among teenagers.

Despite being at the forefront of many advances in modern medicine, the United States has 6.1 infant deaths per 1,000 live births, the worst of the 27 wealthiest nations in the world. Poorer states such as Alabama have 8.7 infant deaths per 1000 live births putting it only slightly behind Lebanon in infant mortality. Researchers have spent many hours dissecting data to explain this disturbing trend and have found that most infant deaths happen postpartum in disadvantaged households that can’t afford proper infant care. More affordable healthcare is the simplest solution but Congress has failed to pass any fixes or alternatives to Obamacare which is only growing more costly.

Now on to vehicle fatality rates. The United States used to be one of the safer countries for driving. Now, our vehicle fatality rate is about 40 percent higher than the fatality rate of Canada or Australia with about seven deaths per billion miles traveled. Experts attribute these deaths to the fact that American highways have much higher speeds than their European counterparts and less frequent seatbelt use with 1 in 7 Americans still foregoing a seatbelt while driving. Other countries also see buzzed driving as drunk driving and have stricter punishments for driving under the influence.

Finally, shooting deaths in America are almost 49 times higher than in other developed countries. In 2016 alone, 11,000 deaths were attributed to gun violence. From 2012 to 2014, it was estimated that 1,297 children per year lost their lives to a gun. School shootings have also become more prevalent with eight school shootings having already occurred in the first seven weeks of the year (hopefully it is still that number by the time this is published).

The fix to this problem is one that other countries have already figured out: adopt stricter gun laws.

Australia is the prime example of this fix. After a 1996 shooting that left 35 people dead, lawmakers banned automatic firearms, established a national firearms registry, imposed new licensing requirements, and created a 28 day waiting period for firearm purchases. After this new legislation, the number of mass shootings that occurred in an eighteen year period dropped from thirteen to zero.

The Parkland shooting that killed seventeen people might be a turning point in American gun legislation. Many victims who survived the shooting are calling for gun reform and pressuring lawmakers to take action. However, whether or not lawmakers can sidestep the pressure and money from the National Rifle Association remains to be seen. Given past trends, money might win out once again.

Let’s hope they care more about the lives of American children than an NRA check.

Cover Image Credit: Photo by Tucker Good on Unsplash

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