I Would Run Too

I Would Run Too

Adrienne BoettingerFriday,24 April 2015

Have you seen the footage of the arrest of Freddie Gray? My advice would be to sit down before you watch it. Seeing a person sworn to uphold the law kneeling on Gray’s neck while others contort his legs into what the witness who shot the cellphone video said resembled ‘origami’ — all while Gray cries out in excruciating pain — is a lot to take in. And when you see how they drag him to the police van with his legs hanging almost lifelessly, it’s hard to understand why the arrest report was written up as “without force or incident.”

So many questions remain unanswered. Why did the police stop him in the first place? Was it because he was running from them? The Supreme Court has ruled that fleeing a high crime area is enough of a reason to be stopped and the Gilmor Homes complex where Gray was arrested has seen its share of crimes. Unfortunately, we don’t know what the Court meant when it said ‘high crime’ as the Justices’ definition was beyond vague. But at the end of the day, we don’t know if they actually stopped him because he ran from them or what their cause was.

I would run too. I’m a white woman in my mid-30’s but if I were a black man or boy and I saw the police, I would run too. You stay you get shot. You run you get shot or have your spine nearly severed. I would take my chances and run like hell. I keep hearing people say “he must be guilty because why else would he run?” To that I say how in the hell do you know? Given the recent and highly publicized deaths of black men at the hands of white police, why isn’t it just as probable that he ran because he feared for his life?

Unfortunately we can’t ask Freddie Gray why he ran but we can ask the police officers why they stopped him in the first place, what happened in the van, and how can they have the unmitigated gall to describe the vicious takedown and wounding of Freddy Gray as “without force or incident”?

Is Baltimore a dangerous place? Yes. Do police bear some responsibility for this? Yes. Does the community? Yes. And both the police and the community need to be a part of the solution. Too many children, young people, adults, and senior citizens are dying. At the end of 2014, Baltimore was ranked fifth in the country in terms of cities with the highest murder rates. That has to stop.

Having a healthy community requires trust between the people who live there and the people who police there. You can’t have trust when an overwhelming part of the community fears being arrested for walking while black, running while black, or driving while black. You also can’t have trust in a community where shootings are so common as to make people numb to the numbers, drugs are sold and bought on too many corners and violence is a way of life.

A healthy community isn’t impossible but it is really difficult. It doesn’t mean turning a blind eye to criminals trying to influence our children. It requires people to show up, care for each other and the place in which they live, and to stand up for one another in good times and bad. That takes a lot of time and commitment. How long before we realize we’re creating a generation who thinks they are more likely to go to jail than to own their own home?

Responsible policing isn’t impossible but it is really difficult. It doesn’t mean locking up everyone who looks at you the wrong way. It requires getting to know the people you serve, showing them they should trust you, and working to make their neighborhoods a safer place to live. That takes a lot of time and the right type of officer. And ultimately what we demand as a public are arrests, punishment and vengeance. How long before we realize the people we are getting vengeance on are ultimately ourselves?


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