Police Abuse

Baltimore Cop Quits After Pummeling a Man for Disrespecting His Authority

The Saturday incident immediately prompted an investigation because it was captured on bystander video.

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A Baltimore police officer who was caught on camera repeatedly punching a pedestrian who dared to question his authority resigned yesterday after his department suspended him and launched an investigation. The swift response to the ugly incident, which happened around noon on Saturday, shows once again the importance of ubiquitous cameras in revealing and deterring police brutality, which may be partly a function of race but is fundamentally a problem of unconstrained power. That truth is especially apparent in this case, where both the abusive officer and his victim are black.

The Baltimore Police Department has not named the officer who resigned or the man he assaulted. But Warren Brown, an attorney who represents Dashawn McGrier, the man who was beaten, identified the officer as Arthur Williams, who joined the department last year. Brown said the encounter on Saturday, which was recorded by more than one bystander, was McGrier's second run-in with Williams, who last June arrested him for assaulting an officer, disorderly conduct, obstructing and hindering, and resisting arrest. All of those are highly malleable charges that look even more questionable in light of what happened on Saturday.

According to Brown, McGrier was sitting on the steps of a building when Williams passed by in his patrol car. Moments later, as McGrier was walking down the street, Williams approached him on foot and ordered him to stop. McGrier wanted to know why he was being stopped, but Williams would not say. "I'm sitting on the steps," McGrier says in one video. "For what?" Williams pushes him, and McGrier says, "Don't touch me!" Williams responds by punching McGrier more than a dozen times and tackling him. McGrier does not fight back. As he lies on the sidewalk under Williams, blood flows from his mouth. "I got all that," says the man who is recording the attack. "Don't worry."

Interim Police Commissioner Gary Tuggle said he was "deeply disturbed" by the videos and had launched an investigation of Williams and the officer who was with him, which will include a review of "body camera footage." The second officer, who like Williams was suspended with pay, did not participate in the assault but did not intervene either. Mayor Catherine Pugh described the incident as "disturbing" and said she had "demanded answers and accountability." She added that "we are working day and night to bring about a new era of community-based, constitutional policing and will not be deterred by this or any other instance that threatens our efforts to re-establish the trust of all citizens in the Baltimore Police Department."

Even Lt. Gene Ryan, president of the local police union, said Tuggle took "the appropriate action" in suspending Williams pending an investigation. "I'd like to believe that there is more to it, but obviously, it really makes us look bad," Ryan told The Baltimore Sun. "That's something we don't need right now. We don't need another black eye."

But for the bystander video, the official response might have been quite different. McGrier, the victim, might have been treated as a criminal instead. Without video evidence to contradict him, Williams could have claimed McGrier resisted arrest for disturbing the peace, or some other combination of easily invented charges.

In its initial description of the incident, the BPD said two officers "working a special cross borders crime initiative…encountered a man, whom one of the officers is familiar with." According to the BPD, "After the first encounter, officers released him and then approached him again to provide him a citizens contact sheet. When he was asked for his identification, the situation escalated when he refused. The police officer then struck the man several times."

Ironically, citizen contact sheets are meant to help prevent police abuse by providing a record of street stops. But McGrier seems to have provoked a beating by making it difficult for Williams to fill out this supposedly protective paperwork. The BPD statement mentions no justification for the initial stop, which was supposed to be based on "reasonable suspicion" that McGrier had committed a crime or was about to do so. A demand for identification under threat of arrest likewise is unconstitutional in the absence of reasonable suspicion. But reasonable suspicion, like criminal charges for people whom police deem insufficiently deferential, is easily manufactured.

"I don't think there was any room for the activity that I saw," Commissioner Tuggle said at a press conference today. But in practice police have a license to harass people at will, inventing excuses as necessary, unless there is video or eyewitness testimony to contradict them. While young black men like McGrier are especially likely to be the victims of such abuse, the basic problem is loose rules and weak mechanisms for enforcing them.

Some people might fault McGrier for responding defiantly to Williams instead of meekly complying, which probably would have saved him a beating. But people who are not reasonably suspected of criminal activity are under no obligation to provide identification, and McGrier was rightly indignant that police were hassling him for no valid reason. In a free society, no citizen should have to fear police punishment for asserting his rights.

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35 responses to “Baltimore Cop Quits After Pummeling a Man for Disrespecting His Authority

  1. “Cops and Klan go Hand in Hand!”

    1. Because FYTW.

  2. “We don’t need another black eye.”

    Hey now…

    1. If you don’t need another black eye, then listen and comply with the authority that controls you, oh public servant.

  3. The only explanation I can find is that either Lt. Gene Ryan ill suited for his job or he is racist.

  4. Some people might fault McGrier for responding defiantly to Williams instead of meekly complying…

    No doubt. The internet is full of them. And I suspect if there wasn’t video, the police leadership would be among them.

    1. Special Police Crime #1: Contempt Of Cop

  5. The state inflicted violence here is obviously not a black and white issue but a black and blue problem.

  6. shows once again the importance of ubiquitous cameras in revealing and deterring police brutality, which may be partly a function of race relations

    Or was the intent to suggest that one race may be inherently more violent (at least in part) than another?

    1. Umm, the intent is to get actual evidence – not suggestions or assumptions.

      1. Umm, the intent is to get actual evidence – not suggestions or assumptions.

        The word ‘race’ occurs once in the article and was put there by Reason/Sullum. No one who actually saw the evidence said anything about race.

        God are you dumb.

    2. Why do Black Cops hate Black men so?

  7. Baltimore PD, huh? Why I am shocked and appalled.

    1. Yet another victim of Baltimore’s systemic racism.

      1. Seriously though. I hope this guy is lighting his cigars with Ben Franklins from his payout a year from now.

        1. This guy is lighting his cigars with Ben Franklins and extinguishing them on Arthur William’s knuckles. Hypothetically.

          1. I’d like to see a settlement where he gets to drive-stun Arthur Williams in the balls once a week.

  8. Baltimore, where you can’t beat the ride or the rap.

    Baltimore, where you get a rap before the ride.

    Baltimore, where the ride is the rap.

    And to think this happened on the recently renamed street, Freddie Gray Way. Outrageous.

  9. The man was obviously guilty of Contempt Of Cop and deserved the beating he got.

    /sarc

  10. …Interim Police Commissioner Gary Tuggle said he was “deeply disturbed” by the videos…

    Deeply disturbed that citizens have cameras everywhere?

  11. people who are not reasonably suspected of criminal activity are under no obligation to provide identification

    It depends on what the meanings of “reasonably” and “obligation” (at least) are.

    1. Supported by specific articulable facts and required by law.

  12. …identified the officer as Arthur Williams, who joined the department last year.

    Doesn’t he know that you have to be there for a few years before they defend you for this type of shit?

  13. A little disingenuous. The cop pushes McGrier and you can see him knock the cops arm aside. This is always an invitation for a beatdown. Classic cop tactics.

  14. I wonder which police department hired him him next?

  15. RESPECT MUY AUTHORITAH!

  16. Don’t want to be treated like a thug, don’t exercise your 4th Amendment rights like a libertarian.

  17. Though between the neon lavender shorts and robins egg blue socks, the fashion police may want a word with him.

  18. Backsassing always seems to lead to an intimate introduction to the Officers Friend, William Club.

  19. There’s a lot more that stinks in Baltimore than the Inner Harbor.

  20. Baltimore is a quagmire. They would not back the police to take control when there were riots and they have lost many officers and have had a hard time recruiting new ones. No surprise people don’t want a dangerous job where your bosses don’t support you. So this person was hired a year ago, it may be representative of the quality of those still willing to take those jobs.

  21. Not good enough. He and his partner, who should have intervened, should be in jail facing the same array of criminal charges that any one of us would be facing had we been caught in the same act of gratuitous violence, only with sentences aggravated for committing the crimes under the color of law.

  22. You’d think he’d at least wait out his paid vacation?

  23. I wish people wouldn’t get into it on the street. What we need is… members of congress kicking each others ass on c-span. Put in on pay per view, and use the proceeds to buy back Chinese held debt. We’ve seen what they can do to Apple, so it’s important to get them away from critical mass when it comes to US debt instruments.

  24. Jackpot! Let’s use the Mike McConnell test. How much compensation would it take for you to gladly have that experience? I’d probably do it for $20K but this guy will probably get 2 million.

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