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Activists again disrupt Baltimore-area restaurants and shops and retired veteran officer Neill Franklin talks about whether body cameras are an effective remedy and the importance of ending the culture of impunity for the boys in blue

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JAISAL NOOR, TRNN PRODUCER: In cities across the country, sustained anti-police brutality protests have entered their second month after grand juries failed to indict white officers for killing Michael Brown and Eric Garner.

In Baltimore on Sunday, December 28, several dozen protesters targeted area businesses, they said, to educate shoppers of the reality of unchecked police abuse that takes place in low-income [communities] and communities of color.

SHANNON SHIRD, PROTESTOR: Baltimore is a highly segregated city. And there are communities in Baltimore, like the one we’re in right now, where they never have to consider the pain and the suffering that’s happening in neighborhoods that are literally a block that way.


NOOR: They’re seeking to build support in white and affluent neighborhoods that are not typically subjected to police violence.


CHAVON HENDERSON, PROTESTOR: And when we get in here and we say our spiel and we list these names and ages, it makes it a little bit more real for people who may have otherwise just read it in the newspaper and kind of disregarded it or felt a bit of sadness but did nothing to help this change that needs to happen is society.


SHIRD: We want to carry our pain into daylight, we want to carry it into brunches, we want to carry it into your bookshop in order to let you know that things aren’t going as–that things aren’t as great as we think they are, like, and you can’t continue to be in the dark about the suffering of everyone. And there’s certain neighborhoods and certain privileged people don’t ever have to consider or invest in our struggle. And we are asking that they join us, which is why we leave each establishment asking them, which side are you on, ’cause your silence is complacency.


HENDERSON: You know, we need everyone to be outraged about this. It’s not just a black issue. It’s an everyone issue. And I’m not saying–you know, I get really upset when people change “black lives matter” to “all lives matter”. It’s ’cause it’s not that we’re saying they don’t matter; it’s just like, can you pay attention to us, can you give us some respect, can you let us mourn our losses, can you sympathize.


NOOR: The tactics used in Baltimore on Sunday have previously been used in Oakland, where activists occupied popular establishments and have even shut down a police station.

And while Sunday’s protesters did not tell us their demands on camera, in an email they said they agree with what retired 33-year police veteran Neill Franklin told us about prosecuting abusive cops and why reforms like body cameras are only a Band-Aid on a systemic issue.

FRANKLIN: Like, the police officer that assaulted the man on Greenmount Avenue, that’s aggravated assault. That is a felony. He should have been fired immediately, okay, in cases like that, prosecuted immediately–we don’t need a grand jury or anything like that–prosecuted immediately, terminated, no pay, done deal. Okay? Even in other cases, management, leadership just needs to make the decision to do the right thing and terminate someone. You know what? Suspend him without pay if it’s a felony. Okay? And if they end up getting their job back after they sue or whatever, so be it. But we’ve got to send the right message to the men and women in blue. And you know what? The unions, the unions should be very supportive of this, because they should want the best men and women among their ranks. Why would you want to defend a problematic police officer when you look into some of these personnel jackets–and that’s another thing: transparency for when a police officer violates the trust of a citizen or abuses a citizen, that should be transparent. And when you look into some of these jackets, you’ll see that some of these officers have had these problems for a long time. And the police unions should not want these officers working among them.

NOOR: And finally, there’s been calls for body cameras, cameras on squad cars. Is this a step forward? Or is this missing the point that in places like in New Mexico, in certain towns, in certain cities, even with body cameras, cops are still–you don’t have an independent prosecutor, and cops are not getting–even with the video evidence. And we saw it in the Eric Garner case. Even with the video evidence, these officers are not even getting indicted.

FRANKLIN: Absolutely. So the body cams, obviously, I support the body cam issue, because there are untold cases where there has been no video and there’s been great abuse and no one has been held accountable for it. But the body cam is a Band-Aid to a systemic problem. Okay?

So as I said before, the solutions are multifaceted. It involves training. It involves leadership. It involves first-line leadership, those sergeants on the street, and coaching and teaching on a consistent basis, holding people accountable, you know, use of–proper use of the camera system. It involves the prosecutor’s office. It involves so much coming together in unison, working to solve these problems and building–establishing that bridge between police and community and getting that trust back. It involves ending the drug war, okay, and the disparity issues with that as well. So, at the end of the day, many solutions are going to deal with the systemic issues. But, again, the body cam issue, it’s a Band-Aid, it’s after the fact. It’s too late. We need to do something now regarding the systemic issues.


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

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Jaisal is currently the Democracy Initiative Manager at the Solutions Journalism Network and is a former TRNN host, producer, and reporter. He mainly grew up in the Baltimore area and studied modern history at the University of Maryland, College Park. Before joining TRNN, he contributed print, radio, and TV reports to Free Speech Radio News, Democracy Now! and The Indypendent. Jaisal's mother has taught in the Baltimore City Public School system for the past 25 years. Follow him on Twitter @jaisalnoor.