Wandering Eye: Rethinking police methods, a look at the 300 Men March, and more

Police have long practiced policy which allows them to shoot people holding knives or other hand weapons. It emphasizes "center mass" shooting, never leg shots or other attempts to wound, and there are dozens of other rules of engagement that have been taught to cops for decades. Now The New York Times looks into a nascent movement to rethink this use-of-force doctrine. The article gets into the weeds of police tactics, beginning with the history of the "21-foot rule," which advises cops that a person with a knife can cover that distance and stab them in the time it takes them to draw, aim, and fire. "In a democratic society, people have a say in how they are policed, and people are saying that they are not satisfied with how things are going," Sean Whent, the police chief in Oakland, California (Baltimore Commissioner Anthony Batts' last post), told the Times. The story explains that current tactics were devised "when police faced violent street gangs," and suggests that this is no longer true—a claim Baltimore cops would certainly dispute. It would be more accurate to say that the tactics evolved from SWAT, which were designed originally to confront and contain civil unrest. Still, the article focuses on a police culture that emphasizes control and confrontation above negotiation, and notes that other countries—England, for instance—do much better at avoiding carnage, both for suspects and officers. (Edward Ericson Jr.)

 

The Sun's Luke Broadwater has a profile on the 300 Men March, a grassroots group in the city working to curb violence and help young people find opportunity. Founded by Munir Bahar during a violent 2013 summer, the group was a strong presence during the protests and riot following the death of Freddie Gray. One West Baltimore resident recalled how members were "going out, stopping rioters, walking up to people who were throwing things. They were telling people about the wisdom of not escalating things." But Lawrence Brown, an activist and professor at Morgan State University, says that while quelling violence is an important goal, attacking structural racism must remain a priority. "We need to make sure we're not killing each other and cut down on the drug trade," says Brown. "But even if we do all those things, it still wouldn't stop police from killing us. It wouldn't have stopped what happened to Freddie Gray." (Brandon Weigel)

 

Tickets to Prince's "RALLY 4 PEACE" at Royal Farms Arena on Sunday went on sale yesterday and, within minutes, $22 seats were gone and the cheapest ones available were $197 ($224.55 with fees). Lawrence Grandpre, a leader of local activist group Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle (LBS), posted an open letter to Prince, thanking him for his "interest in helping Baltimore" but raising questions about the "timing/methods." "[A]t 2-4 hundred dollars a ticket, how much of this money actually goes to charity, and which charities?" Grandpre asks. "Far from fixing Baltimore's problems, by ingratiating yourself into a system which ignores at best and demonizes at worst the very communities most affected by these events, you risk exacerbating these problems." Grandpre ends the letter saying, "After you leave, we will still have a city to rebuild, not from the riots, but from 50 years of structural neglect and institutional racism. The Baltimore Grassroots need the resources to work with and the space to breathe, but instead we will get drowned in 'purple rain.'" (Evan Serpick)

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