Michael A. Wood Jr. (1979?- ), a retired White American police sergeant and former US Marine, has come forward to say what he saw while serving on the Baltimore police force from 2003 to 2014. He was forced into retirement by a shoulder injury.
He confirms much of what many Black Americans have long known or suspected.
- racially profile, all the way;
- often lie;
- lack empathy: do not see Black and poor people as real human beings;
- are an occupying force in Black ghettos, seeing the people there as the enemy, not as citizens to protect and serve;
- use unspoken arrest quotas: each officer is expected to make so many arrests a month;
- do not care much about the US Constitution;
- are badly trained;
- fear Black males.
Wood was never afraid of the streets because of his military training: Baltimore is hardly Iraq or Afghanistan. He says police brutality is mainly driven by fear and a lack of proper training that feeds that fear.
That fear becomes a vicious circle: it makes Blacks afraid of the police, which makes the police even more afraid and so on. It makes the police angry, bitter, brutal.
It is not just a few “rogue cops”: police act out the racism that is in US culture – and get away with it.
Wood himself tried to be colour-blind so that he would be fair to Blacks. But that made him blind to the institutional racism that he was taking part in – like:
“Targeting 16-24 year old black males essentially because we arrest them more, perpetrating the circle of arresting them more.”
Arrests and crime bear little relationship to each other – except for the “crime” of being poor while Black.
When he was put on patrol in a well-to-do White neighbourhood, he would go to a nearby Black neighbourhood to make his arrest quota. Not because there was more crime there, like you might think, but because he could get away with arresting Blacks for little things, like throwing a cigarette on the sidewalk or playing basketball in the street. He could go through their pockets (despite the Constitution) and maybe find drugs or a weapon.
He did not see himself as “personally” racist – yet took part in a racist institution by “just following orders”. Orders that came ultimately from the good old White boys at the top of the police department. Who, in turn, were supported by politicians who represented not the people but moneyed interests – like the prison-industrial complex.
As far as he can tell, this stuff goes way beyond Baltimore.
Some changes he would make:
- End the War on Drugs. Like Prohibition, it makes things worse, not better. Drugs should be seen as a public health issue, not as crime.
- Base policing on science, on what works to bring down crime, not on arrest quotas.
- Teach the police empathy. By, for example, getting them to know the actual people they supposedly serve and protect. This is what changed him.
- Try cases of police wrongdoing in public. No secrets.
Thanks to Sondis for suggesting this post.
– Abagond, 2015.
- Twitter: @MichaelAWoodJr
- the police
- Black ghetto
- “I don’t see colour”
- The Stanford Prison Experiment