HOT TOPICS ▶ Climate Change     Undoing The New Deal     The Real Baltimore     Reality Asserts Itself     United Kingdom    

  September 1, 2015

Former Cop Says Freddie Gray Slowdown Didn't Prompt Crime Spike

Ex-Baltimore Officer Michael Wood, who came to fame for tweeting about corruption inside the agency, says there is no evidence showing aggressive policing reduces crime. Note: The video version of this interview incorrectly identifies Michael Wood as Michael Woods.
Members don't see ads. If you are a member, and you're seeing this appeal, click here

Share to Facebook Share to Twitter

I support the Real News Network because of their bravery, integrity, informative and educational - David Pear
Log in and tell us why you support TRNN


Stephen Janis is an award winning investigative journalist whose work has won acclaim in both print and television. As the Senior Investigative Reporter for the now defunct Baltimore Examiner he won two Maryland DC Delaware Press Association Awards for his work on the number of unsolved murders in Baltimore and the killings of prostitutes. His in-depth work on the city's zero tolerance policing policy garnered an NAACP's president's award. Later he founded Investigative Voice, an award winning web site that is the subject of the upcoming documentary Fit To Print. As an Investigative Producer for WBFF/Fox 45 he has won three consecutive Capital Emmys, two for best Investigative Series and one for Outstanding Historical/Cultural piece. He is the author of two books on the philosophy of policing Why Do We Kill?: The Pathology of Murder in Baltimore, You Can't Stop Murder: Truths About Policing in Baltimore and Beyond, and two novels This Dream Called Death and Orange: The Diary of an Urban Surrealist. He teaches journalism at Towson University.


STEPHEN JANIS, TRNN: Hello. My name is Stephen Janis. I'm a reporter for the Real News Network. We're here at Gilmor Homes, the place where police arrested Freddie Gray, and has led to the trial that will begin tomorrow. We're here with a former Baltimore City police officer, Michael Wood, to talk about the case.

Give us a little, a sense of what you think is going on in the psyche of the Baltimore City Police Department. Since these indictments, officers have said they're not going to work. They're going to sit down. Give us a little perspective on that. Is that true?

MICHAEL WOOD: I find it hard to believe that the officers would do something where they have to act, and not act. But when you're talking about proactive enforcement, so maybe they're not going to go out there and jack a bunch of guys on the corner, where's the objection?

JANIS: They have equated that, though, with a drop in crime. With a rise in crime, excuse me. Is it true that without the proactive enforcement that crime just rises? Or is that sort of a false equivalence?

WOOD: There's no evidence leaning--to indicate that. Anybody that says that this slowdown, if they want to call it that, has caused an increase in crime, that would exactly be proven to be wrong in the past before. In New York they did that and crime went down. People like to make a lot of inferences out of things that no scientific person, no expert, is going to consider to be a valid claim.

JANIS: But you're basically saying this whole narrative myth, that more policing leads to less crime, and that policing is the solution to crime, you're basically saying that's wrong.

WOOD: Yeah, completely. I think the entire foundation--.

JANIS: How can you say--you're a cop.

WOOD: The entire foundation of criminal justice is wrong. We are based upon ideology and not science. We should be based upon science with empathy overruling it. So if even science says we should do something that would lower crime, if that comes at the cost of a particular culture of people in general, then we shouldn't do those things.

JANIS: Okay, you made some interesting points. You talk about ideology. What do you mean specifically about--what kind of ideology drives policing? I think that's a good point.

WOOD: Right. The first ideology that's big that you'll see is criminal profiling. So while they used to say racial profiling now you'll say criminal profiling, because you're profiling the criminal act. But if you start off your base and your foundation is in the fact that you started off your entire profession arresting slaves and putting them in prison, then you're already getting a false dataset from the very beginning because you're basing it upon an ideology, not actual science.

JANIS: Right. So we look from the outside, we see incredible acts of violence on behalf of police. I was thinking about--we were talking about Officer Cosom, who beat a suspect in front of a bus stop. And we see these things, and we kind of find it inexplicable. Can you explain the psychology, or why police officers do these things that we don't understand?

WOOD: Personally, I also find it impossible to understand and to fathom. I've, even the things that I did see, I don't understand why those things took place. What led you there. Ultimately I think it's fear. Cops are definitely afraid, and they're afraid for multiple reasons. And one of those is that they're completely under-trained and they can't actually handle the situation.

So when you have somebody like Cosom, you know that--longstanding thinking is that the officer should go and should take over his district. Like, he has to have the commanding presence. So if somebody threatens that respect then the idea an officer, and in the ideology of criminal justice, is that you must reassert that stance that you have. That control of the situation. So if the control was taken from him--I don't know. I don't know what people do that for.

JANIS: So you're saying that a lot of these conflicts here are precipitated by the idea in the police officer's head that they have to be in absolute total control of a situation at all times? Is that what you're saying?

WOOD: Yeah, I think that's the idea. That you run it, you're in control at all times. You can't step down, you can't retreat. I can't understand why there's not certain reasons where you would say okay, you know, I'm wrong. I'm probably handling this the wrong way. You guys have a good day. I mean, it happens.

You have the metric in policing which is arrests. Every officer is judged upon their arrests. You don't get credit for deescalating a situation. So even if you go through the efforts--say it takes an hour to deescalate a situation, but you could have moved on in five minutes by making an arrest. Well, then, the easy route is that you're going to get credit for the arrest, and that's the easier thing to do, so you may as well do it.

JANIS: Were there arrest quotas when you were in the city? Were people judged by the number--I know that when I was reporting during the zero tolerance, there were arrest quotas for units that I saw. I mean, I saw numbers from the deputy commissioner's office that seemed to do that. Were there arrest quotas?

WOOD: Well, as you know there'll never be official quotas. There would be approximations, or something like that. So what I did is when my officers did things, we were in the Eastern, so I expected them to have right around ten arrests a month. So that would be one every other day, considering they work about 20 days out of that 28-day period. I would expect about a ten. If they didn't get ten, then the idea was that they weren't working hard.

JANIS: What did you expect out of the ten arrests? I mean, then in a sense, you were part of the problem, in a sense, if you're talking about it. If you were asking people with arrest quotas--.

WOOD: It's not in a sense. It's absolutely the case.

JANIS: All right, so you were part of the problem.

WOOD: I was certainly part of the problem, yes. I didn't see it. I didn't understand it. But certainly that's part of the problem. I was pushing them for arrests. And the reason in my warped justification was that if we gave command what they wanted then we could run our little section and not be bothered. We mostly go out and do arrests. I mean, that is--I estimate that that's been about 90 percent of what I did, was go chase drug arrests. So where does the protect and serve come in here?

Anybody that's been manipulated, and I was brainwashed by the blue Kool-Aid, and the whole society system of police are so wonderful, that you just are joining that club, and doing what you want to do. So I would see things being in covert, doing drug surveillance, really kind of--. I think that was my first, what are we doing? Because as I was sitting there watching drug dealers I would enter, I would see everybody else in the neighborhood have a normal day. I would see the drug dealers do normal things. And you realize that this whole us versus them thing that you've created is, it's not even humane.

But it's really every single branch is poisoned by this same ideology that started in the beginning. So we planted a tree of criminal justice in this evil soil, so everything we get out of it just, is going to be bad as well. It's the proverbial fruit of a poisonous tree, because we were starting from a bad foundation.

JANIS: This is Stephen Janis reporting from Gilmor Homes for the Real News Network in Baltimore.


DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


Our automatic spam filter blocks comments with multiple links and multiple users using the same IP address. Please make thoughtful comments with minimal links using only one user name. If you think your comment has been mistakenly removed please email us at

latest stories

God and Guns - The Fanatical Faith of the NRA
What Netanyahu's Growing Corruption Scandal Means for the Region
Employers Steal $15B From Low Wage Workers Each Year
For 2018, Top Democrats Follow the Big Money
Let's Talk About US Meddling, Too (2/2)
The Nation's Strongest Charter School Regulations Are Under Attack
What's Behind the Taliban's Call for Talks?
Will Trump's Latest Attack on Obamacare Strike a Death Blow?
Russian Espionage, or Clickbait? (1/2)
Baltimore's Metro Shutdown Underscores City's Transportation Problem (2/2)
Improving Baltimore's Schools Will Take More Than Just Money
Safe Streets in America's 'Most Dangerous City'
How Billy Graham Evangelized for American Empire
State's Attorney's Office fires prosecutor amid Gun Trace Task Force controversy, lawyers call shenanigans
Saudi Arabia's Unholy Alliance with Israel
Can Trump's Neocons Exploit Russiagate? (2/2)
Once a Poster Child for Austerity, Latvia Becomes a Hotbed of Corruption
Is Russia a Threat?
Why is a Russian Troll Farm Being Compared to 9/11?
Wilkerson: The Trump-Netanyahu Iran Plan Means War
President Ramaphosa: From Militant Revolutionary to Corporate Magnate
Were Baltimore's Corrupt Cops High When They Made Attempted Murder Arrest?
Baltimore's Metro Shutdown Underscores City's Transportation Problem (1/2)
Empire Files: In the Deadliest Country for Unions & Social Leaders
A New 'Cancer Alley' for Appalachia
Colombian Peace Agreement with FARC on the Brink of Collapse
Philippine War on Drugs a Cover for President Duterte's Fascism?
Mother of Woman Shot by Baltimore County Police Speaks Out
South Africa: Criminality and Deep Rot in the ANC Will Continue Under New President Ramaphosa (2/2)
Do Russiagate Skeptics Go Too Far?,, The Real News Network, Real News Network, The Real News, Real News, Real News For Real People, IWT are trademarks and service marks of Independent World Television inc. "The Real News" is the flagship show of IWT and The Real News Network.

All original content on this site is copyright of The Real News Network. Click here for more

Problems with this site? Please let us know

Web Design, Web Development and Managed Hosting