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Editor's Note: On Saturday, Dec. 27, President Obama announced the end of the U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan. Since the beginning of the conflict in 2001, City Paper has been keeping track of the number of U.S. soldiers killed there in the small black box by our logo in the top left corner of this page. After this issue, we will remove the count, which currently sits at 2,316. Though U.S. soldiers will undoubtedly still die on duty in Afghanistan, the last soldier officially killed in the conflict was Wyatt Martin, a 22-year-old Army specialist from Mesa, Arizona who was killed by an improvised explosive device on Dec. 12.

Police Reporting
City Paper’s Dec. 24 issue was replete with related items that warrant comment: Michael Bunch’s comments on the death of his cousin, Dexter Hill (The Mail); “The Revolution Will Be Tweeted” in Mobtown Beat; “Murder Ink”; and marking the passing of Michael Mayfield in “People Who Died.”

Losing a family member is a tragedy by itself. The loss is compounded when that person is an innocent. All of the recent protests against police-related deaths are driven by a false narrative. The news media and activists have created the false narrative out of bias, a basic failure to tell the whole truth about an incident. While the majority of violent deaths visited in our African-American communities are perpetrated by African-American suspects, deaths at the hands of police are what make the biggest news. Only rarely does an innocent die at the hands of the police.

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In light of the execution of New York police officers Liu and Ramos by an African-American gunman with a Baltimore connection, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake might want to reconsider her response to Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts' statement following the recent shooting of police officer Andrew Groman. Her statement was typical of the lack of honesty in public discourse where race is a concern. Perhaps the nuance of Batts' statement is lost on her because she has never put her life on the line for the protection of someone else. What escapes her is that this officer was shot after deciding to employ less lethal measures during a traffic stop with a non-compliant suspect. That decision almost cost him his life.

What is equally disconcerting is the real potential that this officer's choices may have been influenced by a constant bias that is exercised by news media. No police officer hits the street hoping for the opportunity to use deadly force, but they do have every intention of going home at the end of their shift. It is my fear, as police officers are constantly demonized, that his use of force decision may have been driven by current headlines. His choice to use a Taser, even to announce he would employ a Taser, cost him precious seconds, almost the last seconds of his life.

Carved in stone outside the Baltimore police headquarters are well over a hundred reasons why contact with the police can and does escalate. All the men and women memorialized there lost their lives protecting the citizens of Baltimore. Any contact between police and a non-compliant suspect can result in another name etched in stone. No suspect wants to go to jail, and no police officer can predict the lengths to which a suspect will go to maintain his freedom. Criminal conduct and resisting arrest are the common threads preceding the deaths of Dexter Hill, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner.

Willful reporting with a clear bias amounts to malice. Eighteen-year-old men can enlist in the military, serve, and die for their country. When an 18-year-old African-American man is shot by police, the victim is described as a teenager. We attach innocence to youth, so a "teenaged" suspect who dies at the hands of police becomes a victim rather than a criminal. Media bias is so ingrained, it is almost reflexive, as in the Dec. 22 "Good Morning America" broadcast covering the execution of the New York officers, when they referred to the "choking death" of Eric Garner. He did not die from choking, but some facts don't seem to matter. When you only report the facts that support your position, it isn't news, it is propaganda.

"Murder Ink" has marked the passing of hundreds upon hundreds of African-Americans; and "People Who Died" memorializes Michael Mayfield, someone worthy of marching for. While "The Revolution Will Be Tweeted" berates the Baltimore police for the attitudes of some officers during the protests, I guarantee that they would be uniformly respectful of public protests against the black on black violence that causes heavy police presence in their communities in the first place.

Douglas Womack
Grasonville, MD

Editor's note: The author is retired from the Baltimore police department.

Correction: Last week's Baltimore Beer Baron column, "Is 2015 the Year of the Can," mistakenly called Heavy Seas Beer, Heavy Seas Brewing, and referred to Fred Crudder as Mitch Crudder. 

Due to a production error, the Savage Love and Free Will Astrology columns did not appear in last week's print edition. City Paper regrets the errors.

FROM THE WEB, FACEBOOK, AND TWITTER
“Check, Mate: Playing chess at the Pratt with Aaron Brewer and Girmai Ogbe”
Having the chessboards in the library was an atrocious idea, which happened because the Pratt administrators have no clue as to what a library is supposed to be, and the head of the Business Science & Technology Dept. got strong-armed into turning his department into a games room. As a result you’ve got these idiots in there screaming all the time, making it tougher for the real patrons. Then the administrators wonder why people don’t want to come into the Pratt, preferring Amazon and other alternatives. The chessboards should be removed immediately. If chess really “teaches you to be responsible”, be responsible and get your ass the fuck out of the library, if you don’t want to use it for its intended purpose, and find somewhere else to play your Goddamned games. 
–“ferdinandthecrow,” Dec. 25
“Baltimore City Power Rankings: Health Care Exchange, Hogan, Fox45, more”
Get back to us after it’s fully implemented—after Obama leaves office—and get back to us. Of course, if you’re one of those folks where other people end up paying for your health coverage, all’s good, but......
–“Alexander Mitchell,” Dec. 26

It depends what you consider "works" and how you count those 100,000. The website was still a debacle. Took days to get through the process using it because it would kick us out. We only used the exchange site to see if would get subsidy (we didn't). Would have signed up for insurance, regardless of obamacare, directly through carefirst, so do we get counted as enrolled due to the exchanges still? Next year we won't use the exchange. How is the cost/benefit really being measured? I don't think we know enough yet.

–“Chas Crandell,” Dec. 26

The cops have created an "atmosphere of unnecessary hostility and peril" for private citizens. [Police union president Gene Ryan] needs to just stop talking.

–“Sarah Burden,” Dec. 27

People really need to stop killing each other in general but if police think they can continue breaking the law and violating the constitutional rights of Americans, this kind of violence is going to continue on both sides. These issues will outlast both this presidency and Al Sharpton. Only cameras that can't be turned off, nationwide retraining of police officers and an immediate influx of funding to inner city schools will fix this problem and even then it will take decades for attitudes on both sides to change.

–“Russell Curtis,” Dec. 27
Oooooh, I see. African Anericans are creating an “atmosphere of unnecessary hostility and peril” for police. All this time, I thought it was a system of centuries of racism and corruption in the police system. Bad cops have run rough shot over African Americans since the beginning of slavery and good police are over worked and left exposed to dangerous situations while fatigued. Maybe if we stop paying salaries and pensions to those who are obviously racist and corrupt and clean house, the environment will get a little better. Maybe if we thoroughly train police officers and not assembly line just anybody, things will get better. Maybe if we get “officer friendly” back into elementary and middle schools and reopen pal centers and restore public faith in officers who’ll dispense balanced justice and express integrity, things will get a lil better. This system of injustice is what has created an “atmosphere of unnecessary hostility and peril.” 
The difference between the injustice of yesteryear and today is technology. Finally, those not impacted negatively by the racially unbalanced system are forced to see the injustices suffered by other communities. If Mr. Ryan is not mapping out methods of productive change creating a unilateral safe and just system for good officers and citizens alike (all of us), then he needs to step down and let a productive innovative thinker in that critical seat.
I’ve seen good officers blackballed for telling the truth about bad cop’s mistreatment of criminals and I’ve seen corrupt cops rewarded and protected. Our increase in criminal activity is, in great part, the fault of this corrupt systems. Cops turn their backs for the right price and good cops are “taught a lesson” for their desire to be a true civil servant. Criminals take over neighborhoods and good people are prisoners in their own homes. 

Why would impoverished and African American communities trust this system when it wasn't designed to protect their basic interests? There hasn't been justice in our justice system for a long time. Maaaan, let me walk away from this foolishness before I really get started!

–“Mahogany TayReal Hill,” Dec. 27
“Lobo’s unpretentious good food reminds us of what we love about Baltimore” 

We aren't prudish over here, but we find the trashy mouth off-putting.

–“Chesapeake Coaching of Oyster Point Psychological, LLC,” Dec. 24

I'm going to guess that you've never actually read a City Paper.

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–“Joan Kurtz,” Dec. 24
“Fox 45 botches apology for Tawanda Jones segment; not the first time reporter has made a major error”

So much for double checking your story

–“Mary Pizzica,” Dec. 22

They did apologize, but correctly stated, damage is done and it will take work to undo it. It was also never clear what was done as they only showed the fully aired and unedited chant. This will have FULL redress.

–“Russell A Neverdon Sr,” Dec. 22

Anyone who bothered to pay attention to what WBFF originally aired compared to the actual audio: it was CLEARLY edited and altered (in the original airing) to slander and discredit the peaceful protesters, specifically Ms. Jones.

It's not even close: it was a horrible, race-baiting "mistake"; it's hard to believe that it wasn't intentional, really. People need to be held accountable for this, and anyone still ignorant of how this went down chooses to ignore facts.

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–“Chris J. McGloin,” Dec. 23

Is there a Three Strike rule in journalism?

–“Lynda Gomeringer,” Dec. 23

Fox News: We make it up as we go!

–“Katy Young Kahl,” Dec. 23
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