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Humiliating police won't reduce crime

Staggered by a succession of crises — civil rights violations, corruption convictions and the unsolved killing of a homicide detective — the Baltimore Police Department is closing out its dismal year with a depleted force struggling to contain soaring violent crime while restoring wavering public trust. (Jerry Jackson / Baltimore Sun video)

I now understand why Baltimore will never be able to resolve its rampant homicide and crime problems. This is was made clearly evident in two recent articles in the Sun: “Police seek to win trust” and “Students have questions for police" (Dec. 10). The first article was just another iteration of the typical criticism of our police force, which is woefully undermanned, micromanaged under an onerous consent decree, and berated about isolated incidents of internal corruption which happen in every police department over time and do not fairly portray the majority of fine police officers on the force.

But I was most appalled by the second article in which a senior city police officer was giving a presentation to an audience of Baltimore youth leaders on how kids can better interact with police officers. His message was straightforward and consistent with universal common sense standard guidance on this subject — to make sure officers can see your hands, listen to their commands, don’t reach for anything without their permission and show respect. But throughout the presentation, he was interrupted and challenged by youth leaders on police misconduct (on planting incriminating evidence and racial profiling, for example) and at one point was rudely asked, “How far along are we into the slides? I got questions,” conveying a clear message that “I’m tired of listening to you — you need to listen to what I gotta tell you.”

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Finally, the article concluded with a statement that the Baltimore City Police Department is planning new programs where officers will get “manicures and pedicures with women and haircuts with young men” to enable more conversations with young people. Manicures and pedicures? Give me a break. We need to decide whether our severely undermanned police force’s time is better spent on assuring public safety or wasting time assuming social worker duties as well. Bottom line, this article clearly shows a pervasive lack of respect for our police force, an emboldened attitude in which Baltimore youth feel entitled to disregard police guidance and act confrontational in police encounters, and that our already weakened and undermanned police force is being forced to submit to embarrassing (yes, embarrassing) activities in which the primary purpose is to have our city youth tell them how to do their jobs. Unbelievable.

Jerry Cothran, Baltimore

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