By Michael Nam
The death of Freddie Gray stirred up numerous stories of police abuse and brutality in Baltimore. With criminal charges pending for the six officers involved and a federal civil rights investigation of the Baltimore Police Department, the Baltimore Sun reports additional findings of a disturbing pattern of behavior by local law enforcement.
According to the newspaper, between June 2012 and April 2015, Baltimore City Detention Center rejected the intake of almost 2,600 people in police custody due to numerous medical and health issues:
In those records, intake officers in Central Booking noted a wide variety of injuries, including fractured bones, facial trauma and hypertension. Of the detainees denied entry, 123 had visible head injuries, the third most common medical problem cited by jail officials, records show.
In light of an earlier investigation by the Baltimore Sun, where it was revealed that the city has given approximately $5.7 million in payouts over police brutality lawsuits, the information is quite damning as to how detainees are treated by police, whether intentionally or by negligence.
The injuries Freddie Gray sustained to his spine may also be consistent with the practice known as the “rough ride,” a tactic that can brutalize a suspect in the back of a police van where the steel interiors and a lack of harnessing can cause numerous injuries. The Baltimore Sun also discovered that most local police vans don’t even come with seatbelts:
The reviews by the Howard and Baltimore County police departments come as a survey by The Baltimore Sun found that prisoner transport vans used by county law enforcement agencies generally are not equipped with seat belts.
City officers involved in Gray’s arrest are accused of violating department policy by not placing him in a seat belt. Gray suffered a fatal spinal injury while unrestrained in the van, according to Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby.
The paper’s investigations also note that the issue of detainees being denied medical care could be attributed to ignorance and lack of training as opposed to just cruel behavior.
However, even with the gray area of what responsibilities the police have to assess a health emergency for people in custody, the pattern emerging in Baltimore shows far too many instances of intentional, police-inflicted injuries. In the case of Freddie Gray, the state’s attorney’s criminal case is based on the intentional abuse of the deceased. First, police restrained Gray with handcuffs behind his back when they placed him in the police van; later, they ignored his requests for medical assistance multiple times during a suspiciously lengthy ride to the precinct.
The stakes are immensely high in rooting out the complex issues that lead to police violence, particularly as a discriminatory practice. As Attorney General Loretta Lynch noted, the unrest in Baltimore and the arrest of the six officers charged in his death has led to a “serious erosion of public trust.”