Whistleblower: Modern Policing Rooted in Racist Policies
TRNN brings you the second part of our interview with former Baltimore Police Sergeant Michael Wood
JAISAL NOOR, TRNN: I’m Jaisal Noor in Baltimore. We’re in Gilmor Homes where four months ago Freddie Gray was arrested and eventually suffered injuries that led to his death. His death and subsequent protests sparked an uprising across Baltimore and protests across the country. One of those people that in his own way joined those protests is former police officer Michael Wood.
The words you tweeted, the abuse you wrote about, it seemed to really resonate at that moment, and it still has around the country. Because in this community so many people talk about abuse, the unfair treatment they face with police officers, but it doesn’t resonate with the media or broader society. Why do you think that is?
MICHAEL A. WOOD JR, FORMER BALTIMORE POLICE SERGEANT: I think it’s truly a shame that it took a white guy to come out and say it who was a cop, and actually did the things. It seemed like every bit of other evidence in the entire world wasn’t being considered. This is not new. This has been in song lyrics for hundreds of years. This has been in our textbooks. This has been in our previous freedom fighters. And so they were just ignored.
NOOR: It’s accepted that, the idea that it’s only a few bad apples. Police brutality, the lack of accountability, is not a systemic issue. What do you say to people that believe that?
WOOD: Don’t believe me, research yourself. It is clearly a systemic issue. It comes down to the very fabric of everything that we do in law enforcement. So if you think it’s not wrong, just think about your metric, that your metric is arrests. That your goal is to go out there and arrest somebody. Not help them. Not solve a crime, not deescalate a situation. It’s arrest them. So where do you go from there to say it’s not a systemic thing?
When we go back through time and you see that we have ideas like criminal profiling, where at one point in time we allowed the worst of our society to pick the weakest and take those people and start putting them into a system. And once they’re in that system we use the data of that system to justify putting them back into that system. So we essentially end up taking these 16-24-year-old black males, and we arrest them based upon the idea that we arrested them before. So somehow that makes them more likely to be a criminal, because you arrested them. That doesn’t make any sense.
But what I can tell you is that this neighborhood was the same when I was here 13 years ago. It’s the same as it was 40 years ago. And we’ve been using the same tactics to try and address the situation. But yet it keeps getting worse, or it stays the same. So what we know is it’s not working. We know it’s not working. But we keep doing it over and over.
We’re not treating those people like human beings. So ultimately the drug war makes us treat people like they’re not human begins.
NOOR: Who can hold police accountable? Because you’ve witnessed–you witnessed many cases of police abuse that almost never went punished. So what do you think is necessary to hold police accountable?
WOOD: The idea that we’re going to hold ourselves accountable is just a logical fallacy. I mean, would you trust your 15-year-old to be home at curfew on time every night and never check? Of course not, that sounds ridiculous. You’re not going to be able to trust, checking yourself.
NOOR: And talking about Baltimore specifically, you talk a little bit about the most egregious things that you saw that made you lose faith in this profession which you initially had embraced as someone that could do good for these, for the communities that you served, to the position where you felt that it was doing the opposite.
WOOD: I really think you’re being presumptuous. I don’t think I joined to do good. I think I joined to do car chases and to run around the streets and have power, like a lot of cops do. It was fun. It was an adrenaline rush. And you came to a place where you can do it. You can’t do that in the county, can you? No, you won’t get away with it. So you come to the city and you embrace the culture, and you don’t think about it. Because you’ve been told your whole life that what the police do is good. So if you’re doing what the good people do, then what you do is good, right? So you kind of have to stand back outside of it a little bit and focus on the consequences of what’s happening.
We write sloppy reports, we don’t know the law. We follow through on things that have no business that we’re even involved in. We raid wrong houses. We don’t understand use of force. We say things like a taser is non-lethal when it’s certainly not. It’s less lethal, so if you have that in your mind that this can’t kill somebody when it certainly can, well, then you’re just being led by an ideology and not scientific facts.
We have no empathy. We run around and we treat everybody like they’re an enemy combatant. You’re going to go out there and you’re going to fight crime, right? Well if you’re fighting, you have to have somebody to fight. So what would even happen if there was no crime? What would a cop do? What they do, we’ve been shown, is invent it. Prostitution becomes a crime, and drugs become a crime. That way we can find something that everyone does, and we can focus on the weakest of our society and use them to build our system off of.
NOOR: What role do you think the protest, including maybe some of your own, your own participation and your own actions, might have contributed? There was thousands of people in the streets. Do you think that played a role in those indictments?
WOOD: I think it has to, even if it’s subconscious. I am a firm believer that these are the cries of the oppressed, and we should be figuring out ways to end the cries of the oppressed, not figuring out ways to silence them more. So this voice, it has to be heard. And if it doesn’t get heard then we’re just going to keep screaming louder.
NOOR: Michael Wood, thanks so much for joining us.
WOOD: No problem.
NOOR: Thank you for joining us at the Real News Network.
DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.