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In a press conference after a video surfaced showing a Baltimore police officer repeatedly punching a city residents Commissioner Gary Tuggle says the second officer on the scene could not intervene because he feared for his safety from onlookers

Story Transcript

TAYA GRAHAM: This is Taya Graham, reporting for The Real News Network in Baltimore City, Maryland.

Policing will not be reformed in our lifetime, says the attorney who is representing another victim of Baltimore City police brutality.

GARY TUGGLE: My preliminary review of the, particularly the public video, is extremely disappointing to me. I don’t think that there was any room for the activity I saw on that. And it is extremely disturbing.

TAYA GRAHAM: It was a critical moment during the hastily-called press conference after this video surfaced, showing a brutal assault by a Baltimore City police officer. It was the city’s top cop trying to answer questions about an unprovoked beatdown that has gone viral.

STEPHEN JANIS: With the consent decree and the scrutiny of the federal government, how can this stuff be happening? When you’ve got the federal monitor watching the police, what is going wrong? Where’s the breakdown here?

GARY TUGGLE: I mean, there shouldn’t be a breakdown. And that’s why I’m so disturbed about this.

TAYA GRAHAM: The officer has since resigned, and interim Commissioner Tuggle has criticized his actions. But during the back and forth with reporters, one particular query stood out: A question about the second officer seen in the video. Commissioner Tuggle was asked by The Real News if that officer had any obligation to intervene, and his answer reveals much about the power of American policing.

Commissioner Tuggle said the officer was concerned for his safety, and had an obligation to protect himself.

GARY TUGGLE: There were a number of things going on in the video. And I’m going to talk specifically about the public video. As you noticed, there weren’t any strikes on the part of that officer. But there were people in the immediate area and approaching that situation with sticks in their hand. So they had an obligation to contain the situation that he had in front of him. But he had an obligation to keep himself safe. That’s hugely important.

TAYA GRAHAM: Not the victim, Dashawn McGrier. An answer he defended when questioned by The Real News.

STEPHEN JANIS: Are you saying he had no obligation to stop that officer from beating a suspect?

GARY TUGGLE: That’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying-

STEPHEN JANIS: Could you clarify that, please?

GARY TUGGLE: I’m saying that given the opportunity to stop it and protect himself at the same time, he had an obligation to do that.

TAYA GRAHAM: But later, McGrier’s attorney Warren Brown said that the notion a police officer could stand by and watch a brutal assault is ludicrous.

WARREN BROWN: If he had seen someone go after my client the way his colleague went after my client, he would have intervened. He would have made an arrest right then and there. The fact that his colleague has a uniform on and is his colleague should not have stood in the way of him trying to intervene and prevent the carnage that we witnessed on video.

TAYA GRAHAM: That the officer’s failure to act was a sign that the future for police reform here in Baltimore was dim.

WARREN BROWN: I mean, listen, you know that the federal government, they have this consent decree. Judge Bredar and these guys are overseeing what’s going on. You know that Marilyn Mosby has no reluctance to prosecute police officers. You know the ubiquitous nature of cell phones. So why would you engage in such brutal actions on the streets of Baltimore?

STEPHEN JANIS: I mean, is the police department at a tipping point now where it’s beyond the ability to reform it?

WARREN BROWN: I don’t think it’ll be reformed in our lifetimes. All of us old enough to, I think we’re going to get- we won’t see it in our lifetime. I think it’s going to be the next generation that may well see it.

TAYA GRAHAM: Brown said the officer had harassed his client, and had escalated tensions during frequent contacts.

WARREN BROWN: In this, what you have is an officer that has zeroed in- former officer- that zeroed in on this individual and would not let up. And this- it’s not, I mean, we see this oftentimes. It’s just rare that it rises to this level, and is recorded in the manner that it was.

MICHELLE STERRETTE: He didn’t, he didn’t attempt to say, you know, come on, fellow officer. Stop this. Don’t do this. No. To me it was like he was encouraging him, if you ask me.

TAYA GRAHAM: This shows a culture of hostility towards the community that residents who witnessed the attack said is business as usual.

VANESSA HALL: You cannot be out here going around just beating people because you have problems at home with your wife or your family members, or whatever.

TAYA GRAHAM: They also believe the officer should have intervened, and that the mayor needs to start holding police accountable, or real change will remain forever out of reach.

SPEAKER: Our mayor, Catherine Pugh, needs to step up and get on top of that. Get a good commissioner that’s going to sit there and fight for us and our community.

TAYA GRAHAM: This is Taya Graham and Stephen Janis reporting for The Real News Network in Baltimore City, Maryland.

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Host & Producer
Taya Graham is an award-winning investigative reporter who has covered U.S. politics, local government, and the criminal justice system. She is the host of TRNN's "Police Accountability Report," and producer and co-creator of the award-winning podcast "Truth and Reconciliation" on Baltimore's NPR affiliate WYPR. She has written extensively for a variety of publications including the Afro American Newspaper, the oldest black-owned publication in the country, and was a frequent contributor to Morgan State Radio at a historic HBCU. She has also produced two documentaries, including the feature-length film "The Friendliest Town." Although her reporting focuses on the criminal justice system and government accountability, she has provided on the ground coverage of presidential primaries and elections as well as local and state campaigns. Follow her on Twitter.

Host & Producer
Stephen Janis is an award winning investigative reporter turned documentary filmmaker. His first feature film, The Friendliest Town was distributed by Gravitas Ventures and won an award of distinction from The Impact Doc Film Festival, and a humanitarian award from The Indie Film Fest. He is the co-host and creator of The Police Accountability Report on The Real News Network, which has received more than 10,000,000 views on YouTube. His work as a reporter has been featured on a variety of national shows including the Netflix reboot of Unsolved Mysteries, Dead of Night on Investigation Discovery Channel, Relentless on NBC, and Sins of the City on TV One.

He has co-authored several books on policing, corruption, and the root causes of violence including Why Do We Kill: The Pathology of Murder in Baltimore and You Can’t Stop Murder: Truths about Policing in Baltimore and Beyond. He is also the co-host of the true crime podcast Land of the Unsolved. Prior to joining The Real News, Janis won three Capital Emmys for investigative series working as an investigative producer for WBFF. Follow him on Twitter.