Friday, September 9, 2011

Racial Profiling, Harassment, Threat & Intimidation By Baltimore Police

The message below, sent to Commissioner Frederick Bealefeld, of the Baltimore Police Department, details the most recent incident of officers violating my civil rights.  Copies were also sent to various media.
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To: Frederick H. Bealefeld III Commissioner, Baltimore Police Department

CC:  FBI, Honorable Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Baltimore City Council, Members Of Media
Civil Rights Advocacy Groups

Copies will also be sent via U.S. Postal Service

Commissioner Bealefeld,

I would like to draw your attention to an unfortunate incident regarding Officer K. Rodriguez and others, taking place in the Southern District.  Rodriguez was the primary antagonist, accompanied and assisted by Officer Perry.  Officer Rodriguez's conduct displayed a lack of good judgement, lack of common sense, and most distressingly, a fundamental lack of understanding of the constitutional and civil rights of a citizen and a member of the press.  His conduct also had a clear overtone of racial discrimination. 

A person behaving in such a way as was displayed by Rodriguez should not be allowed to serve the public and, presents a serious liability to the Baltimore Police Department, the City of Baltimore, and to the citizens of this city.

I have personally witnessed and been subject to a systematic, continuous, perilous pattern of harassment and routine violations of my constitutional and civil rights, by the Baltimore Police Department.  The purpose of this message is to bring to your full and complete awareness the most recent incident, ranking among the most egregious violations of my rights by members of this department (see 'Details Of Complaint' below) 



Being so informed, by allowing these actions to continue, you would be considered criminally compliant, by your inaction to prevent.
Pictured left to right, Larry "The Celebrity" Cab Driver,  Police  Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III, & the author.

As a well known, respected, highly popular figure on the local news scene, I deserve the ability to practice my craft, as a constitutionally protected activity, without unnecessary and undue harassment, and infringement by the Baltimore Police.

In the past, attempts to handle these matters at the district level, and even through internal affairs, have proven to be largely futile and wholly ineffective.  This is only the latest incident, in which your officers have singled me out while attempting to report the news, for a special brand of harassment and intimidation.  I was once even arrested for nothing other than refusing to put away my camera, while in a public space.  It is my fear that this situation will continue unabated until it rises to the level of someone getting hurt.  This of course is entirely unnecessary, and preventable, by action only you can take.  

Covering breaking news at a clandestine meth lab explosion.
Past attempts to handle these matters at the district level, and even through internal affairs, have proven to be largely futile and wholly ineffective.  A memorandum of understanding, increased training and awareness as to the rights and duties of the press in a free and democratic society seems in order for members of your department.  The willful and oppressive, intimidating, threatening actions of those sworn to protect and uphold the law will not be tolerated.

Commissioner, you must turn this around.  Your response and intended remedy to this most pressing matter is desired. TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE.  


Yours In Freedom And Truth


A.F. James MacArthur Ph.A.L.
Independent Investigative Journalist

Director
MacArthur Media International
Direct: 410-205-6397

Crime & Community Reporter
InvestigativeVoice.com

News & Commentary
1010 AM WOLB,
Larry Young Morning Show
Taxi Talk in The Afternoon



P.S. Having practiced journalism in various forms, for nearly 20 years, photographing and interviewing among others a wide array of politicians and elected officials, including  Presidents, senators, congressmen, local leaders and all manner of celebrities and popular figures, around the country and even overseas, covering all manner of breaking news and emergencies, no where have I experienced more issues of harassment and ill treatment by police, than in Baltimore City.
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DETAILS OF INCIDENT WITH OFFICER K. RODRIGUEZ, BALTIMORE POLICE DEPARTMENT




On the night of 4 September, 2011, shortly before midnight, I received information from a source there was a rescue underway for a person in the water near the Potee St./Hanover St. bridge, believed to be a suicide jumper.  As a member of media covering issues of public safety, I responded to the area in attempts at gathering information for a story.

Upon my arrival, there was no crime scene tape, or officers cordoning off an area.  I walked several hundred feet towards the center of the bridge where there was a large gathering of people. Among them were numerous civilians and members of both the Baltimore City Fire Dept. and the Baltimore Police. As I begin to walk around the perimeter of scene, taking wide angle photographs and making notes, the first person to acknowledged me was a uniformed, white shirted, commander of the Baltimore Police. I did not take note of his name, but he acknowledged me with a friendly smile, wave, head-nod and the words 'how you doing?'

Wearing a bright safety orange "incident vest" clearly displaying with large letters and the word "PRESS" along with my name, in addition to the camera hanging from my neck, there could be no mistaking who I was and my purpose for being there.

Several uniformed officers also acknowledged my presence in a friendly and courteous manner as did members of the Fire Dept.  It was not until I was seen by a sergeant, wearing no name tag on his uniform, did the troubles begin.

The sergeant immediately began to rudely and aggressively question me and told me I could not be there. Having been to literally hundreds of crime scenes over the years as a reporter, photojournalist or in some of other capacity, I found his actions to be quite strange and off putting, as I was not in physically in the way, or interfering with the ongoing search and rescue operations, nor was there any danger presented to myself by being there.

I politely identified myself as a member of media, and told him I was here to do a story, and that under the law my actions were permissible.  I asked if there was a designated area he would like me to stage in; he then continued to speak to me in a rude, aggressive and threatening manner stated I would be arrested if I did not leave immediately. He then signaled two officers towards me.

Immediately Officer Rodriguez rushed towards me reaching out with his hands as if to grab me, while Officer Perry backed him up displaying a pair of handcuffs. This action shocked me, as I was not aware of having committed any crime, and I felt the officers were about to falsely imprison me, then later articulate a conjured up reason as to justify an arrest.  This has been done before.

In a clear, stern voice, I informed the officers that I broke no law, and if any of them were to touch me, it would be a violation of my rights.  Rodriguez got within inches of my faces and began to address me in a very uncivil, ridiculing manner.  When he told me to "turn around and get out of here," I told him he was standing way too close to me, and I would never turn my back on someone acting in such a threatening manner. He then gestured as if to strike me or place hands on me again.  At this point, I told him his actions are unnecessary and uncalled for, I would be vacating the area, and if he should touch me, I would consider this an assault. 

Due to the immediate threat displayed by Rodriguez's and Perry's aggressive posture, I began to walk backwards off the bridge.  Fearing some sort of attack from the officers was imminent, I wanted to keep them within eyesight.  All the while,  other civilians on the bridge who happened to be white, did not have this sort of personalized police attention I was receiving.  The officers followed me for a distance of several hundred yards, well away from the scene of the incident.

Fearing for my safety, and believing the situation may escalate, as we were now a great distance away from the scene and supervisors.  I called 911, informed them of the threatening and harassing actions of the officers, and requested a supervisor respond to our location. I remained on the line so the operator could hear the commotion and interaction between Officer Rodriguez and myself. The 911 call lasted over 11 minutes, yet no supervisor ever showed.

At some point during the incident, being unable to gather information for my originally intended news story, I informed the officers they would now be my story, and I would be taking photographs and video of them, so their actions could be documented.  Officer Rodriguez began to violently protest, reaching out as if to grab my camera, then shielding his face, and continuing to threaten me, all the while advancing on me.

What was most disturbing is, while I willingly attempted to leave the scene, I see no reason why the officers felt it necessary to shadow me, essentially stalking and harassing me for several hundred feet.  The scene was that of a search and rescue, there was no danger posed my presence.  No possibility of gun fire, disturbing evidence, risk of explosion etc.

It is my belief that the sergeant and officers were hiding behind the badge, and using the guise of law to willfully and deliberately violate my freedom of the press among other civil rights, their threatening behavior not withstanding.  Judging by the fact of the white civilians in the same area not being harassed, it is also my belief, that the aggressive actions were precipitated by my being a black man, to which this department has a long, dark history, of unfair, illegal, violent and brutal actions, going against all form of decency and human rights.

Incidentally, the entire time, personnel on the bridge, in addition to the FoxTrot Unit (police helicopter), were searching and scanning the area with spotlights, looking for the victim.  Officers Rodriguez and Perry were not helpful in this, as they spent an inordinate amount of time, a great distance away from the scene, while harassing me.  That night the victim was never found.  Two days later, a body was found floating in the immediate vicinity, all evidence indicates this was the body of the person being searched for on the night of the incident.  

Perhaps a rescue might have been effected, while the individual was still alive, were resources more fully and appropriately applied to the situation.


Sunday, September 4, 2011

Interesting Sun Reader Comment on The Baltimore Grand Prix

The comment below was from the most recent Baltimore Sun article attempting to present both sides of the argument, for an against the Baltimore Grand Prix.

Capt. Buzz Nichols at 8:00 AM September 04, 2011

I lived in Long Beach, CA when the Grand Prix came to that city.  I’ve also lived in Baltimore, so I know what you are in for.  Two words: mayhem and chaos.  Just as in Long Beach, this venue is for the enjoyment of the few (wealthy and influential), while disrupting and inconveniencing the rest.  

Here is what you are experiencing this weekend :  People are dead because rescue medics are not be able to get to you in a timely manner.  There is a spike in crime, because law enforcement are tied up with directing traffic in circles and crowd control.  Businesses have to close because customers are not able to get to them.  Public transit is interrupted for the many that need it most.  If you are along the race route you are not allowed to leave your home, or get back to it if you have.  

And then there is the noise, the litter, the drunks, and people that could care less about their behavior.  The only people that will make money are the promoters (already wealthy at the expense of tax payers).  And a first time event of this magnitude will cause problems that no one previously thought of.  It took Long Beach about three years before they got it close to right.  Here is another thing.  The cars don’t just show up and race.  There are a few days of practice for the drivers and their crews to prepare.  And then a few days of after event clean up and dismantle of the course.  



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