Baltimore Police Department (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
For many of us, Baltimore police bring to mind the crew on Homicide: Life On The Street, but that’s not the real picture, sadly. In reality, some Baltimore cops are fascists at heart. At least when it comes to them being filmed. And they’re not shy about dealing with such a situation.
While she was stuck in traffic in northern Baltimore, Makia Smith glanced out her car window and spied four officers beating up and arresting a young man. She pulled out her camera, opened her car door and stood on the doorsill to film the incident. According to Smith, one of the policemen – Officer Nathan Church – spotted her filming them and ran at her yelling:
‘You want to film something bitch? Film this!’
Frightened, Smith sat back down in her car but Officer Church reached in, grabbed her camera and threw it to the ground, stomping on it for good measure. He then pulled Smith out of her car by her hair and began beating her. Officers William Pilkerton, Jr., Nathan Ulmer and Kenneth Campbell came over and joined in. The quartet arrested her with excessive force. Oh, did I mention that Ms. Smith’s two-year-old daughter was in the back seat?
According to a complaint filed against the officers, Police Commissioner Anthony Batts, and the Baltimore Police Department, the officers taunted her about the child. They told Smith that her daughter would be taken away and sent to Social Services. They refused to call Smith’s mother to pick the toddler up. According to the complaint:
“The officers, despite the pleas of plaintiff, refused to call plaintiff’s mother. Instead, the officers tormented plaintiff by telling her that her daughter would be taken from her and sent to Social Services. Seeing plaintiff’s distressful reaction to these tormenting threats, they continued.”
Presumably this went on as Ms. Smith was arrested and taken to jail where she was charged with assaulting Officer Church and resisting arrest. I assume that the child was picked up by Social Services but the complaint isn’t clear on this. I certainly hope that they didn’t leave her in the car as they dragged her mother away to jail. Then, when the case came to trial, Officer Church skipped both proceedings, forcing prosecutors to drop the charges. However, Ms. Smith had to hire a lawyer and pay to get her car out of impound.
Ms. Smith is now suing for $1.5 million in both compensatory and punitive damages. She claims civil rights violations and infliction of emotional distress. I hope whoever hears the case will take into account the toddler who witnessed her mother getting the crap beat out of her for no reason. Baltimore police have an ugly history of brutality, especially against people of color. The incident involving Anthony Anderson, Jr. and the three officers accused of killing him had the city up in arms last year. Community leaders at that time protested, as no action was taken by the BPD against the officers who killed Anderson. One local pastor said that Baltimore had “…far too many people…” finding themselves victimized by police brutality, excessive force and police killings adding that police who committed these acts were never punished.
Police all around the country have been accused of similar action when they see people filming them. They better get used to it, though. The Rodney King tape started a citizen revolt against police brutality, and what happened in New York with the Occupy movement has cemented this new paradigm. Police need to understand that those of their profession who misuse their public trust will not be able to hide anymore. We are watching… and filming.