City officials condemned a viral video that captured a Baltimore Police sergeant being kicked by onlookers as he struggled to restrain a male on the ground Friday night.
“I am outraged, as any resident of Baltimore should be, by this incident,” Commissioner Michael Harrison said in a statement Saturday. “We cannot, and will not, allow any member of the public, or one of our officers, to be assaulted. We are now working to identify everybody involved and, when we do, they will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Harrison said that just before midnight, a sergeant was doing a business check in the 1500 block of Pennsylvania Avenue when a person in the business became argumentative with the sergeant and spat in his face.
A video that appears to capture the aftermath shows the officer straddling a male, attempting to arrest him, as a group of bystanders surround the officer, some of whom then kick the officer. Another person in the crowd can be seen attempting to pull the male away from the officer, dragging the male as the officer continues to restrain him.
Police arrested one person and are attempting to identify the onlookers who kicked the officer, Harrison said.
“What we saw was appalling, unnecessary, and downright criminal," Harrison said to news media representatives Saturday before walking through businesses on Pennsylvania Avenue with Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young.
“That’s an assault on a police officer. That is not going to be tolerated,” Young said.
In a tweet earlier Saturday, Council President Brandon Scott said he notified the commissioner of the incident and called the behavior in the video “unacceptable."
“Interfering with an arresting officer is a line that should not be crossed," he said.
Harrison said he believes the officer acted appropriately.
“Based on our preliminary review of the incident, the sergeant did nothing to provoke the assault, and the sergeant should be commended for using the appropriate amount of force to apprehend his assailant,” he said.
State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby also expressed outrage at the video.
“I am disgusted by the blatant assault against the police officer in the video, and my office will work with BPD to bring the perpetrators to justice,” she said in a statement to The Baltimore Sun. “Violence has no place, against anyone. Period.”
Harrison said the sergeant is assigned to the Southern District and was working overtime when the incident occurred. He said the officer’s body camera was not activated during the incident.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said late Saturday he is “appalled and disgusted” by the incident.
“Our administration is providing unprecedented state resources to combat the crime epidemic in Baltimore, but this requires an all-hands-on-deck approach,” he said. “It is time we all stand together, and it is time city leaders and legislative leaders join our efforts to take our communities back.”
Sgt. Mike Mancuso, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3, said in a statement to The Baltimore Sun that the sergeant “is a little banged up and recovering."
Mancuso’s statement said the video reflects broader problems facing officers on the job, including what he called restrictive policies by a federal consent decree and Mosby’s office’s “activist” agenda. Mosby’s office has had a tense relationship with the union since her office charged six officers in 2015 after the arrest and death of West Baltimore resident Freddie Gray. His death later sparked days of protest and a night of rioting.
The video is "a perfect example where the consent decree and overbearing policies and an activist state’s attorney has gotten law enforcement in Baltimore,” Mancuso said.
Two years after Gray’s death and a U.S. Department of Justice civil rights investigation, the city entered into a consent decree that requires the department to implement widespread policing reforms. Work on the consent decree to date has centered on creating policy, and reforms are expected to be implemented this year.
In response, Mosby said she was disappointed by the FOP’s "continued inappropriate political rhetoric, fanning the very flames they then call on me to put out. Their responses are relentlessly divisive, and they seem to lose no opportunity to misplace blame. "
She continued, “Our city desperately deserves better and needs to move past such divisive rhetoric, and hypocritical finger-pointing.”
When asked about the union’s concerns, Young responded, “I’m sick and tired of what the FOP is saying when they should be out here with these brave men and women patroling these streets instead of sitting behind a desk criticizing a plan that’s working.”
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Before the freezing rain began Saturday afternoon, Young and Harrison walked to several stores on Pennsylvania Avenue and shook hands with employees and customers.