By Brett Gillin
On virtually every media outlet, there are opinions regarding the Freddy Gray case, the protests, riots, and other fallout of the death of the 25-year-old. Most of these opinions come from journalists, bloggers, educators, civil rights activists, and career politicians, with the police perspective being underrepresented for the most part. That started to change yesterday thanks to an interview shared by CBS News.
Reporters with CBS News sat down for an interview with a Baltimore-area police officer and his wife. The goal of the interview was to at least attempt to give the debate a voice from the police-perspective. Although it was only a single family’s viewpoint, the things the officer and his wife shared with reporters certainly rings true with any officer or person who counts an officer amongst their loved ones.
The family, who asked to remain anonymous for reasons that would become clear in the first moments of the interview, described what it has been like to serve as an officer in Baltimore since Freddy Gray died while in police custody and six officers were charged in the death.
“Everyone emails saying there are credible threats against law enforcement and families,” the officer told reporters. He explained that officers and their families are being advised to remove any information that might identify them as police officers from their vehicles, including police plates.
Then, the officer uttered a few words that officers are becoming more and more accustomed to: “We get cussed at, shot at. Crazy stuff is going on.” Although he goes on to explain that coming under fire isn’t common, it still highlights a frightening reality that is overtaking many officers lives. As tensions between police and citizens continue to mount, and more protests turn into riots, police officers’ already-dangerous jobs are becoming even more so by the day.
When the subject turns to the officer’s opinion on the Freddy Gray case, he offers his sympathy for the Gray family. Then, he explains that, at least from his perspective, the most egregious thing that happened was the officers not securing Gray once he was in the van. This should have, in the officer’s opinion, resulted in a departmental charge, not murder charges.
“I feel horrible for the family. It’s a horrible circumstance that I cannot relate to. But if you think of [all] the officers who were not there, and they see the footage, and they see the case as a drug dealer ran and got hurt (…) a lot of the officers I could see them saying ‘We’re wrong no matter what,” the officer proclaimed.
The officer’s wife echoed the sentiments of nearly every officer’s spouse throughout the nation, explaining that she wished the media would not paint all of these officers with the same broad brush while also explaining how stressful it is to love someone who is in such danger every day because of their job.
The officer also added what he feels would be at least a good start to helping turn around public perception of police officers: more community outreach. This sentiment has been echoed by numerous civil rights activists, educators, and politicians and is sure to be implemented whenever and wherever possible.
“Anything that gets the police working with the community,” the officer explained. “Some local school did field trips with us to the park, and we did team-building with kids that were local in our area that we worked. I thought that was really good.”