The nation has once again broken out into a frenzy over what looks to be a police brutality case. But there are many key differences between Ferguson and Baltimore.
Both cities have primarily a black population, but in Ferguson, the powers in charge of investigating the incident were white while in Baltimore those powers are black. And in Baltimore, both the Mayor and the police commissioner immediately started an investigation into the conduct by the officers on the scene.
One more piece of information is that the protests in Baltimore, except for the night of 4/25, have been primarily peaceful. Police have given a wide berth to the protestors to allow them to vocalize their outrage. The only time we see a significant police presence is during the night of 4/25 where 3 dozen police in riot gear were required to protect both the general population and the peaceful protestors alike. During that time, one officer was injured a dozen other people sustained minor injuries.
The main difference between the two cases is that the police department in Baltimore seems to be much more open and communicative with the general public than that of Ferguson.
The city is at a tipping point, though. With the violence we saw last night, it is concerning that, even if the police department is fully open about each and every action, that the general population will not allow them to do the job as due process requires.
Just like any other investigation, you don’t go straight from seeing something on amateur video to putting a person directly in jail. Much more needs to happen. There needs to be a full investigation. For example, the police commissioner said that he knows that Gray was not buckled into the wagon as he should have been and that it is possible that he was hurt during a “rough ride,” where officers hit the brakes and take sharp turns to injure suspects in the back of the van. But during his meeting with reporters, he claimed that is unacceptable, which means some sort of punishment will be doled out.
The question remains to be seen, what kind of punishment is coming?
If it were up to the protestors, that would include the death of the officers. Many of the protestors shouted for the officers to be killed, and took their aggression out on innocent citizens. In one video I saw a man look behind his shoulder and see a man and woman walking behind him. He slowed down and picked up a trash can and threw it directly at the couple, striking the woman.
That would be like me seeing an altercation between a cop and accused criminal and then going to a random area and hitting the wife of random guy. It doesn’t make any sense.
This isn’t war.
Treaties have not been broken.
When trust has been broken you give the offending person the opportunity to rebuild the trust by repenting and doing the right thing in the end.
So as a Christian, how should we move forward?
Should I side with the protestors? Should I side with the government?
As a Christian, we need to side for those who are affected most by this tragedy.
First, there is the family of the man who died. They deserve privacy and understanding. While the man may or may not have had a criminal past, the family is not Freddie Gray. The only thing we should be showering on them is food for the grieving family, love for them and the privacy they deserve.
Next, we need to remember the police officers. When I looked up the average training for police officers nationwide, it looks to be about 400 hours of training time in various areas. That is about 50 days worth of training. But, of that, only 8 hours are spent in ethics and integrity, 6 hours in stress management, and 8 hours in conflict resolution. It is not my place to critique the police training program, but I bring that up to put yourself in their place.
Did you ever have a friend who was going through problems? In the ministry, that is the majority of what I hear, people’s problems. But after a mere 8 hours in training on drug and alcohol addiction, I am nowhere near qualified to prescribe a treatment program to anyone. But that is precisely what we are doing with officers, we give them a significant amount of firearm training and limited training in other ways and we expect them to be perfect on the streets. No one will get it right all the time, and when it involves firearms and choke holds and fighting, there is little room for error. Those police officers did not go out that day expecting to kill a man.
Third, we need to remember the people who are affected in the communities because of the protests. The people whose cars are getting vandalized, the people who are getting hurt, the shops that are losing sales and may need to lay off workers. They are the ones who are the innocent victims.
So we need to show justice.
Sometimes that comes in keeping our mouths shut. Other times it comes in speaking out. But our speaking out should ONLY lead to Christ. If it merely seeks to affect change, then we are missing the reason for being salt and light as the Bible calls us to be.
Read John 4:1-26.
So let’s show some dignity to the people of Baltimore. Let’s show some dignity to the people of all of the cities who are facing injustice. Show them the Christ that was the same Christ at the well when the Samaritan woman was there in the heat of day because she was ashamed to be near the other women because of her sins. We need to be the Christian who shows grace. Who shows love. Who cares for those who are affected by injustice.