I know how ya feel, buddy.
Man, what a week. I don't want to get too political on here, or add to the noise that is swarming on and on about the situation in Baltimore, but, I would feel remiss if I didn't say anything.
I work, and live in the Mid-Atlantic region of the USA. I don't want to give my exact location, but it is safe to assume that where I work in effected by the happenings in Charm City.
I'm not going into specifics here, but as a nation, here is what we KNOW.
1) An individual was taken into police custody in the form of arrest.
2) The individual in question, was a black male.
3) The individual was placed into a "paddy wagon" or prisoner transport vehicle.
4) The officers on scene failed to seat-belt the individual.
5) At some point, the individual sustained an injury, and requested medical treatment.
6) Medical treatment was delayed.
7) The individual in custody dies as a result of an injury.
Those are the facts. ALL of the reported facts. Everything else is window dressing, and speculation provided by the media, special interest groups, and political figure heads.
As a result of a heated political and sociological climate, the citizens of Baltimore have rallied and had multiple protests. While most are peaceful, certain individuals have taken it upon themselves to use the opportunity to spark violence, and civil unrest (read "RIOT").
As Police, what can we learn from this event?
I'm not the one to speak on lessons learned from the police response to the riot. That will be studied by department heads across the nation in the coming months.
However, as a Patrolman, an FTO, and a senior officer, I think we should look at the incident that lead up to the in custody death.
1) There were 6 officers involved. I know it's gotten cliche' but, "if you see something, say something" doesn't just apply to citizens calling us for terror tips. We should communicate among each other during difficult arrests, and all calls for service. If one or two of the officers saw something critical that the others didn't see, that needs to be communicated.
2) Refer to your training and procedures. I don't know what might of went "wrong" in this arrest, but something tells me that it was out of the ordinary. We need to be vigilant on doing things as dictated by our training, and procedures, especially when things break bad. It was revealed that he wasn't buckled in. What does your policy say about seat belts? Find out, and follow it.
3) Do NOT deny timely access to medical treatment. If a prisoner asks for medical treatment, I know it has become a stall tactic, and is a pain in the ass to deal with, but we MUST call for the medics IMMEDIATELY. That takes the liability off of us. If there is a medical need, it will be met. If the prisoner refuses, then we at least tried to provide them the necessary service. It was revealed that there was a delay in treatment. Timely access to the medics may, or may not, have prevented the in custody death, but it would have been a more appropriate response.
4) If you are on scene, and the rules are not being followed, step up and make sure they are. You don't have to be a Sgt, or a supervisor, to call someone out on an improper action. If you are the most senior officer on scene, you are liable to ensure that those junior to you are acting in accordance to the rules. Now, I'm not saying that you need to be a baby sergeant, but if someone is doing something immoral, illegal, against policy, or unsafe, and intervention needs to happen now, step up. If it's something that can wait, talk to them after the call, and get on the same page.
I'm not sure if someone in the group was grossly negligent, and if someone else saw something, and kept silent. I'm hoping that it was just a freak occurrence that happened to end in tragedy. But, if something could have been done, and it was up to you, can you look at yourself in the mirror knowing that you did not have the courage to stop it?
Again, I don't want this to be an article of assumption, but rather an article of reflection. Are we, you, am I, doing everything we can to make sure that those entrusted in your custody are protected? Are we making sure that our integrity is in check, and we are doing the right thing?
I have plenty of stories where taking a "short cut" has lead to disaster. Some of them are mine. So, I write this as a reminder to you, and me, to do it right, and not to take shortcuts, or keep silent when we can prevent a mistake.