Baltimore’s mayor and police commissioner were a little vague today about the videotaped arrest of a jobs protester who is seen prone, with officers kneeling on his back, macing him repeatedly point-blank in the face.
“No,” said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, asked if she’d seen the video of the March 29th incident being shown by local activists this week. “I haven’t seen the full video.”
Rawlings-Blake said she is “always concerned when issues are raised about police officers’ conduct” and noted that procedures are in place to investigate them.
Likewise, Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III pointed to the department’s “commitment to the recruitment of police officers of high caliber” and noted its procedures for investigating complaints of abuse.
But he would not answer specific questions about the instances of alleged abusive behavior condemned by activists this week.
“If cops do dumb stuff we’re going to hold them accountable,” Bealefeld said, questioned today, along with the mayor, at a press event held to promote the installation of 33 new crime cameras in Northeast Baltimore.
“Getting Arrested Is Not A Pleasant Thing”
Answering the specific questions fell to police public affairs director Anthony J. Guglielmi. Asked if the officers are facing any investigation or punishment in the case of the videotaped arrest of demonstrator Thomas Threatt, he said, “No one has filed a complaint about it!”
A complaint will be filed with the Civilian Review Board, said Sharon Black, an organizer for the group All Peoples Congress.
Black and Rev. Cortly C.D. Witherspoon, head of the local chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, organized a press event yesterday about the arrest of Threatt, the shooting of a disabled West Baltimore man – by an officer who fired out of his cruiser window – and the general issue of police misconduct in Baltimore.
Guglielmi said “we stand behind the officers” involved in Threatt’s arrest near the East Baltimore Development Inc. (EBDI) project. Guglielmi said police got a call that demonstrators were blocking construction equipment.
Guglielmi said it was necessary to arrest Threatt because he resisted their order to move and that the arrest was properly conducted.
“It’s tough for you and others to look at this and see everything. [The videotape] doesn’t show his hands, for instance,” Guglielmi said. “Getting arrested is not a pleasant thing.”
Officer Fired Through Window
Guglielmi acknowledged that police are investigating the April 10 incident in which a disabled man, David Yim, was shot in the abdomen by an officer who fired his weapon through his cruiser window.
Regarding the officer, Guglielmi said that “he is not suspended, he was put on administrative leave” for 45 days pending an investigation of the incident by the city homicide squad and Internal Affairs Division. Guglielmi said that process is routine for a police-involved shooting “and is not disciplinary. It’s a cooling-off period.”
In this case, police received a call about “a mentally disturbed person with knives” in the 1200 block of Oakhurst Place, he said. “The officer saw the individual coming out of an alley with butcher knives and followed him.”
Eyewitnesses at yesterday’s news conference have filed affadavits with the group that say Yim walks with difficulty, has a paralyzed arm, did not have anything in his hands and was on the porch of a house when the officer caught up with him and fired.
Guglielmi confirmed that Yim was shot through the window by the police officer, Frederick E. Murray, but declined to offer more details since the incident is being investigated.
Murray has a history of facing similar allegations.
In May of last year, a Baltimore City Circuit Court jury awarded compensatory damages of $95,000 to a man who said Murray and other officers threw him to the ground and assaulted him in front of his home.