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Viral video of police altercation shows current Baltimore 'environment' — and its on-screen future

The midday incident on South Broadway on Tuesday, which Interim Commissioner Kevin Davis said Friday showed "remarkable restraint" on the part of the young officers involved, is the latest altercation involving city cops to go viral via citizen video posted online. But it won't be the last.

A visibly agitated man in Southeast Baltimore punches a police trainee so hard the officer drops to the ground. Then the man wrestles with the rookie and another officer on the sidewalk before finally being arrested.

The incident on South Broadway, which Interim Commissioner Kevin Davis said Friday showed "remarkable restraint" on the part of the officers, is the latest altercation involving city officers to go viral via citizen video posted online.

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It probably won't be the last.

"The environment right now, for whatever reason, seems to prompt this type of scenario, and we've just got to get our arms around it as a community and move forward," Davis said. "American policing is in the midst of a sea change, particularly with patrol officers. It's been referred to by many leaders in this profession as the 'YouTube effect.'"

He added, "I'm personally fine with that. I'm professionally fine with that. The more we have on camera, the better."

In Baltimore, a police body camera pilot program will launch in three districts — the Central, Western and Eastern — on Oct. 26 and last through Dec. 18, with the goal of rolling the technology out citywide by early next year.

The video of Tuesday's incident on South Broadway, which had been viewed more than a million times on the viral video website WorldstarHipHop.com as of Friday afternoon, shows in less than three minutes the tension and uncertainty that can surround an interaction between police and a person who doesn't want to follow their directions.

According to the police report of that incident, Officer Christy Post, on the force for two and a half years, and trainee Maurice Bagby, still in the police academy, were on routine daytime patrol when they saw 21-year-old James Frederick Young shirtless and "yelling obscenities at them and drawing a crowd due to his disorderly activity."

They stopped, as they should have, Davis said.

Post and Bagby engaged Young, and when the video begins, there is already a high level of tension. Young repeatedly tells the officers to stop touching him. He also uses profanity, saying, "I will knock you the [expletive] out."

"Do you want to be disorderly or do you want to walk off?" Post says at one point. She then says, "You're not going to get in my face," and attempts to pull Young's arms behind his back to arrest him.

Bagby joins her in that effort, and Young resists, shoving them off.

Young can be seen swinging at Post multiple times, before connecting on a punch and knocking Bagby to the ground. Young drops on top of Bagby, and Post jumps in as well — appearing to try to pull Young off her partner.

Officer Richard Whittaker then comes into view — Davis said other residents had alerted him — and draws a Taser. "Taser, Taser, Taser," he says, and Young appears to stop resisting.

"I think the officers showed remarkable restraint. I really do. I stopped counting how many times our female police officer said 'Stop' to him, gave him every opportunity to walk away, every opportunity to calm down," Davis said.

Davis said there was "more than enough probable cause" for the officers to arrest Young for disorderly conduct, even before the incident escalated.

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Now, Young is in jail on charges including first-degree assault and resisting arrest.

Bagby was taken to the hospital with a laceration to his lip, according to the police report. Post was not injured. Young was also taken to the hospital for "complaints of facial pain," according to the charging documents.

Assistant Public Defender Ilene Frame, who represents Young, said she has only met with him briefly, but questioned the felony first-degree charge in the case. "Obviously he's presumed innocent," Frame said.

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