By Big Al Remember what Dr. Huber and I discussed on The Weekend Show?
Maryland police officer’s death ignites a racial firestorm
By Jean Marbella, The Baltimore Sun
Thanks to Listener Larry
BALTIMORE – It’s hard to think of a more volatile mix: Four young black males from Baltimore City, accused in the death of a white female police officer in Baltimore County. Authorities say three of the teenagers were breaking into homes when the fourth ran the officer over in a stolen Jeep.
Predictably enough, social media, call-in radio and other forums blew up. A sampling from the Baltimore County Police & Fire Facebook page:
“I was hoping they’d kill him during apprehension. What a waste of life. He’s currently breathing air some decent person could be breathing.”
“I personally am tired of good for nothing hood rats committing adult crimes and people STILL saying crap like, he had hard times growing up, society made him do these things because he had no role models.”
“I hope all you whites have the same level outrage next time one of your youths decide to shoot up a school of innocent children,” another wrote. “You all are a disgusting group of devils.”
No previous case has generated as much online reaction, county fire spokeswoman Elise Armacost said. Authorities pleaded repeatedly for civility, and county staff took down comments that contained profanity or were typed in all caps. But they have struggled to keep up with the avalanche of angry postings – many of which called for the accused driver to be hanged, shot, run over or raped.
“Sadly, these comments are a microcosm of the conflicts and lack of civility we see in the country right now,” Armacost said.
Stephanie DeLuca, a Johns Hopkins sociologist, has long studied Baltimore youth. She’s also the daughter of a 40-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department. She described the “absolutely awful” case as a kind of perfect, polarizing storm.
“It touches on all these intersections – of race, policing, city-county,” said DeLuca, co-author of the 2016 book “Coming of Age in the Other America.”
“Once fear is sparked, anger is sparked,” she said.
Authorities say the teenagers were burglarizing homes in Perry Hall Monday afternoon when Baltimore County Police Officer Amy S. Caprio approached the Jeep. They say driver Dawnta Harris, 16, of the Gilmor Homes public housing project in West Baltimore, ran her over.
a man wearing a suit and tie smiling at the camera: Officer Amy S. Caprio© Baltimore County Police Departme/Baltimore Sun/TNS Officer Amy S. Caprio
Caprio died a short time later. Harris and three other youths were charged as adults with first-degree murder.
That the black youths had driven to the county, populated in no small part by decades of white flight from the city, fueled heated exchanges online and over the airwaves.
Where some saw predatory “animals” and “thugs,” others saw demonization and a rush to judgment. Finger-pointing between city prosecutors and state juvenile officials only added to the fire.
“It’s time that we just turn the city over to the hoodlums and just let them annihilate themselves,” one commenter wrote on The Baltimore Sun’s Facebook page.
DeLuca said the anger obscures an important point: Most young people in Baltimore’s impoverished neighborhoods are going to school or working or both, not out on the streets and creating mayhem.
“They’re looking for something to do, something to be about,” she said. “This is about human development, personal development, and finding meaning and dignity, and these are in short supply in Baltimore.”
Instead, she said, it’s people like Harris, who authorities say fled home detention this month while awaiting sentencing for a car theft, who are “viewed as the norm.”
“The thing I think is important to remember is this is not the typical kid,” DeLuca said. “But no one wants to hear that in the face of this tragedy.”
And indeed, online comments tend to follow a pattern: A poster calls for the suspects to “ROT in prison & actually they should get the DEATH PENALTY!” Others chime in with similar proposals, until eventually someone demurs, perhaps expressing empathy for the youths’ families or pointing out that police have killed suspects but escaped accountability. Then that draws a backlash, and the cycle continues.
On the WBAL radio show hosted by Clarence M. Mitchell IV, callers have been talking about little else.
“You’re talking about a black young man from Gilmor Homes in a very, very white area, and a white female police officer – the racial dynamics can’t be eliminated,” said Mitchell, a former Democratic state senator and scion of a family of civil rights activists.
But he said “people who get involved with racial animus” now generally get called out for it, a change from the past.
Juvenile services secretary says Baltimore County officer’s killing shows youth justice system failed
He sees the real issue in this case as the failings of the juvenile services and juvenile justice systems. Harris had been arrested in several car thefts before Monday, and had been ordered on home detention this month.
“If we worry about some people’s language, we’re never going to help these kids. Let’s not be so defensive,” Mitchell said, “I’m sorry, at some point we have to stop being so sensitive. We are too worried about how we look as opposed to correcting this reality.
“The reality is we have a problem. We are a violent city. We have a dysfunctional juvenile justice system,” he said. “Those are the facts.”
Antero Pietila, who has written about the ways decades-old laws, racial covenants and red-lining created the segregation that persists in much of the Baltimore region today, said the reaction to Caprio’s death reveals the continuing tensions between the city and county.
‘Your client is a one-man crime wave’: Teen charged in Baltimore County officer’s death has lengthy juvenile record
“After white flight, a lot of people who moved to Baltimore County … felt victimized by blacks – ‘they made me move,’” said Pietila, author of “Not in My Neighborhood: How Bigotry Shaped a Great American City.”
“At stressful times, all these emotions come out,” he said. “These are not logical matters. These are matters where emotions rise,
From:: The Korelin Economic Report