LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

The Baltimore Sun

Did skater deserve officer's tirade?

As a mother of a teenage skateboarder, I felt a sick sense of familiarity as I read "Inner Harbor incident hits Internet" (Feb. 12) and watched the YouTube video featuring Officer Salvatore Rivieri.

This type of behavior from the Baltimore police toward skateboarders is not unusual.

Indeed, as long as there have been skaters, there have been police officers confiscating their skate decks, physically abusing them, threatening them with jail and making their lives miserable.

And it is not just the police - officers reflect the public's general intolerance toward skateboarders.

No other sport is as vilified and misunderstood.

Although skateboarding is more popular than Little League baseball, with more than 12 million kids in America skateboarding today, the public persists in demonizing skating as some sort of destructive, menacing threat to public safety instead of seeing it for what it really is - a safe and extremely creative form of healthy exercise.

Why do we expect or require all skaters to skate in the few public skate parks in Maryland while we allow runners, walkers and cyclists to exercise whenever and wherever their feet will take them?

When they routinely pass us on the sidewalks or streets, we politely give them the right of way.

When a skater dares to put his wheels on a sidewalk at the Inner Harbor, police officers often respond with a headlock, chokehold or smackdown.

Betsy Gordon

Baltimore

The writer is project manager for Native Skate, a project initiated by the National Museum of the American Indian that explores the influence of Native American culture on skateboarding.

When YouTube recently showed a video of a teenage skateboarder being manhandled by a Baltimore police officer, public reaction was swift and severe.

Mayor Sheila Dixon called him a "bad apple" and the officer was immediately suspended.

I find this rush to judgment without a complete investigation disturbing, especially as the alleged victim had little more than his feelings hurt.

Police officers put their lives on the line every day, and the lack of public support for these men and women, especially from the mayor's office, is an embarrassment.

Might it be possible that these kids were just punks harassing a veteran officer? And if these upstanding skater dudes were so in the right, why didn't they file a complaint against the officer?

Let's hear the whole story before destroying the career of a dedicated public servant.

E. Mitchell Arion

Goldsboro

In regard to the YouTube video in which the Baltimore police officer seems to go overboard in his actions regarding a teenage skateboarder, I'd point out that teenage boys typically resent authority, often continue to do the wrong thing even after repeated instructions to stop and are, in general, a minor menace to society until they grow out of their teenage years.

When they're doing something wrong, you can ask them to stop over and over again, and they'll often simply ignore you until you get loud or otherwise assert your authority.

As the uncle of two teenage boys, I have no doubt that the officer reacted in a normal manner and that he should not be subject to disciplinary action.

Jerry Fletcher

Waldorf

Watching the YouTube video of a city police officer berating a skateboarder raised many questions, including:

If the police are supposed to protect us, who will protect us from the police?

Why does this officer still have a job?

Steven Salembene

Baltimore

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