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In the Media: Commemorating Lor Scoota; New 'Use of Force' Policy for Baltimore Officers


A digest of Baltimore news from local sources.

From the Baltimore Sun: Community leaders, family plan to commemorate slain rapper Lor Scoota

"Community leaders and family members of Tyriece Watson, known as LorScoota, announced on Wednesday events to commemorate the young rapper's life over several 'days of healing.'

"'We need to recognize him for the artistry,' Minister Marvin McKenstry Jr. said. 'So far his legacy has been overshadowed by the circumstances surrounding his death.'

"'Scoota was not just a local rapper, he was a son of Baltimore,' McKenstry said.

"Scoota, 23, was shot fatally Saturday night in Northeast Baltimore in what police called a targeted killing. Police said they don't know of suspects or a motive but are fielding a flood of tips. On Wednesday evening, Baltimore police released surveillance video of a green Nissan Quest they say held the suspects.

"Watson's brother, John Mosley, said on Wednesday outside their mother's West Baltimore home that he believes 'jealousy' and 'hate' were behind his brother's death.

"'In this city, when you're doing stuff and you're making a name for yourself … the next person always wants in,' said Mosley, 28. 'And if they can't get it the way you're gettin' it, they gotta take what you got.'

"At a news conference, Derrick Chase of the Stand Up Baltimore coalition announced events on Thursday and Friday to remember the life of the popular musician.

"A public wake will be held at Wylie Funeral Home on N. Mount Street on Thursday from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m., with performances by hip-hop artists at an outdoor event hosted by 92Q's Lil Black from 4 to 6 p.m.

"On Friday, a viewing will be held at the Empowerment Temple on Primrose Avenue at 10 a.m., followed by a funeral service at 11 a.m.

"Also on Friday, a block party that organizers are calling a 'Heal the City transformation repass' will be held in the 1500 block of Pennsylvania Ave. from 4 to 7:30 p.m.

"Baltimore Police Lt. Col. Melvin Russell said the Police Department hopes to be 'part of the healing process.' To do so, he said, police officers 'have to be part of the community' as well.

"'The city is hurt. Most importantly, the children are hurt,' said Watson's personal assistant, Alexis Savage.

"She and others spoke across the street from the site of the former Royal Theatre, a prominent venue for African-American entertainers until it was demolished in 1971.

"Chase said the setting was appropriate, given Scoota's creativity, and pointed to a statue of Billie Holiday behind him."

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From the Baltimore Sun: Baltimore Police institute new ‘use of force’ policy for officers as Justice Department report looms

"The Baltimore Police Department plans to implement a new use-of-force policy Friday that emphasizes the 'sanctity of life,' stresses de-escalation and requires officers to intervene if they see a fellow cop crossing the line.

"Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced the new policy on Wednesday as the U.S. Department of Justice prepares to release the results of its sweeping investigation into the department's patterns and practices.

"The first full rewrite of the policy since 2003 comes more than a year after the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray from injuries suffered in police custody — an incident that sparked widespread protests against police brutality, the Justice investigation and the prosecution of six officers.

"Rawlings-Blake, who announced the policy changes alongside Police Commissioner Kevin Davis at police headquarters, said the use of force by officers is 'one of the most scrutinized areas in policing, and it is incumbent upon the police department to ensure its officers are well trained and knowledgable about the procedures when a decision is made to use force.'

"Rawlings-Blake said city residents never tell her they want 'an aggressive police department; they say they want an effective police department,' which she said the changes would help create.

"Davis said officers would be empowered by the clarity in the new policy, and said any suggestion the changes would inhibit officers from policing proactively was 'just silly.'

"He said the policy would continue the department's recent progress. He said citizen complaints about excessive force were already down 40 percent to date this year.

"The Police Department revised the policy in consultation with outside groups and institutions including the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, the Baltimore chapter of the NAACP, and local prosecutors and public defenders, officials said."

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From The Atlantic: An Alternative to the Madness of Proving Police Injustice

"When Baltimore police officer Caesar Goodson Jr., was acquitted Thursday of all charges related to the death of Freddie Gray, the one emotion absent from the courtroom, social media, and the crowds of protesters in the city was surprise. The cases of all six officers alleged to be involved in Gray’s April 2015 death have been tossed about in a sea of strange legal wrangling and reshuffling, but without much real suspense. The trial of Officer Edward Nero ended in a judge’s acquittal, and  that of Officer William Porter in a hung jury. All six officers charged in the case remain on administrative, drawing full salaries, pending the outcome of an internal investigation. But it’s likely that these officers will share the fate of most officers accused of killing black people in the line of duty: a return to police work.

"The process will grind on. It must. Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby is poised to continue cases against the three remaining charged officers who have not been tried. Judge Barry Williams—who presided over Goodson’s bench trial—will continue to hear them. Porter will be retried after those three, and a process that was originally slated to be completed this summer might stretch into 2017. But the lesson at the end of that process will likely be the same as it was during trials for officers involved in other high-profile deaths of people of color. The criminal justice system just doesn’t possess the will, tools, or objectivity to consistently deliver justice for victims of police violence. Criminal justice is incapable of policing itself, and that will continue to be the case for as long as its inherent conflicts of purpose and interest remain. But the idea of restorative justice provides a sorely-needed alternative.

"Restorative justice is a process that allows for direct mediation between victims of violence and police perpetrators. It also allows direct dialogue between families, communities, and police departments. It relies on a much less staggering burden for action than criminal courts—responsibility—and that action generally involves restitution, an admission of guilt or responsibility, and requiring responsible parties to take action to minimize further harm. It also avoids the near-inevitable letdown of communities hoping for verdicts and provides a remedy to the ineffectiveness of of using the criminal-justice system to police the police.

"In many ways, Baltimore prosecutors are actually pushing criminal justice beyond where it usually goes in exploring police violence. That verdicts are even being discussed in Baltimore is an anomaly. Indictments of police officers accused of misconduct are much rarer than internal investigations or civil proceedings from victims or their families. Police officers are by definition agents of state violence, protected by the aegis of state authority, and as such agents the standard of proof needed even to charge them with a crime is incredibly high. Even vivid video evidence did result in an indictment for McKinney, Texas, Officer Eric Casebolt; a grand jury declined to indict him for pinning a black teenage girl to the ground after a pool party. It was certainly not enough for Cleveland officers Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback, who were not indicted after a video showed Loehmann shooting 12-year-old Tamir Rice as he played in the park with a pellet gun.

"Lethality is inevitable when police are armed with lethal weapons, trained to act aggressively, and used as a first response to dysfunction—or to random acts of existence by people of color. Widespread lethality is an obvious and foreseeable consequence of widespread policing, and becomes its implicit teleology. Lethality is enabled by broad protections that police are given under criminal law; without them officers would be unable to function in the aggressive way that they do. There are few ways in which police could go far enough beyond the enormous tolerance for violence against poor people and people of color to merit an indictment by whatever standards of law exist. This tolerance for blood is less an unintended consequence of policing than an integral feature of America’s approach to it, and policing provides the foundation for of all the rest of American criminal justice. Using criminal justice to curtail police violence presents a deep paradox."

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