Freddie Gray

Barack Obama on Baltimore: We Need 'Political Mobilization' to Solve Problems

Job training, school reform, anything but limiting police powers and privileges.


via WJLA

In a press conference with Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, President Obama took a question about the situation in Baltimore. He condemned the "criminals and thugs" perpetrating violence in Baltimore, said he and his task force have been working on issues of police reform. He went on to bemoan not enough people paying attention to the issues involved (socioeconomic-related, not state violence-related), and saying solving the problem would require things like school reform, job training, and investment infrastructure.

Unmentioned was the very specific reason why the death of Freddie Gray has remained controversial–the very visible double standard police are held under. Cops, remember, started chasing Freddie Gray merely because he ran when they made eye contact with him. That was enough for them to pursue him, find an allegedly illegal knife on him, throw him in a van, and hold him in their custody while he dies. The six officers who had Gray in their custody when he died from a severe spinal injury, on the other hand, are still drawing a paycheck.  Their government employment is privileged over the constitutional rights of the people of Baltimore.

Lower unemployment in Baltimore would help. School reform would certainly help fight poverty, but substantive school reform requires declawing the teachers unions, who have an outsized influence on school policy and whose goal is the well-being of their members, the teachers, and not students. Yet Obama and his party insist teachers union, whose priority is teacher employment, should have a role in forming education policy. The same likely goes for police unions. Obama briefly mentioned them as part of the solution. But just as teachers unions are about protecting teachers, good or bad, so police unions are about protecting cops, good or bad.

President Obama says the "solutions" (presumably to police violence) require everyone's participation. But a lot of people are ignorant of the issues, and fortunately Obama's wrong. Solutions don't require everyone's participation. They require just enough participation to push through reforms that could limit state violence and thus improve relations between police and the communities they serve. Getting rid of Maryland's insane Police Bill of Rights, which gave the cops involved in Gray's death 10 days before they had to speak to investigators, would be a great start.