Former Baltimore detective Joe Crystal merits kudos and commendations for coming forward to blow the whistle on a thug cop who beat a detainee while in custody. But what did this hero earn for his forthright exposure of a fellow cop? Nothing but opprobrium as he noted on Chris Hayes 'All In' three nights ago. Cops didn't want to ride with him anymore and he actually found a rat laid out across the windshield of his car. Rumors of the "snitch" meanwhile spread throughout the department in East Baltimore.
A rat put on the car of a decent, honest cop who simply wanted his department to aspire to be the best? Condemning him as a "snitch" for whistle blowing? Give me a break! His fellow cops ought to honoring him for wanting to uphold a standard of behavior all cops ought to aspire to! So why didn't they? According to Crystal's lawyer, Nicolas Panteleakis:
"He saw a wrong and decided he couldn’t live with himself and did the right thing and was punished, I think that’s just unbelievable.. They don’t care about anything but saving their money and saving their hide. It’s absolutely ridiculous with what this man has gone through. One, it lets the Baltimore City police know they were wrong, know that they’ve done numerous things against him that were wrong"
Crystal has currently filed a lawsuit against the department for the intimidation that he has encountered, but the department has responded by opening up an investigation into Crystal’s activities while on duty. In the course of their investigation, they accused Crystal of misusing his take home vehicle, stemming from a time where he took his wife home in the car. The department then offered to drop their investigation if Crystal would drop his lawsuit against them, but he has refused. He will not be intimidated by thug behavior for doing the right thing!
On 'All In' Monday night, Crystal acknowledged being a "rising star" (in Chris Hayes' words) and getting several promotions in a short span of time. But then things came crashing down after he testified against a fellow officer who'd beaten up a detainee.
Crystal was asked about the mentality he encountered, the "culture of the Baltimore Police Department" by Hayes. He replied (after emphasizing not all cops are bad apples):
"What happened in Baltimore was, unfortunately, that from the top down - our Commissioner - Anthony Batts. He comes from Long Beach, California, where he had a documented history of not protecting officers who'd come forward to speak about police corruption. So he brought that mentality over to Baltimore city. So basically the 'blue wall of silence' was very strong, and as a result of that, because I testified about police brutality I was ultimately run out."
He went on to note how Batts insisted he'd get to the bottom of it when he arrived in 2012, but never took a single statement from Crystal until the end of 2014 - conveniently, after the statue of limitations ran out on the other officers who harassed him.
The arrested victim - having already been put in the paddy wagon - was then dragged back out and taken into a house where he was savagely beaten. (The domicile was that of the girlfriend of the cop who did the beating) As Crystal told Hayes, the officer was found guilty in court along with the Sergeant for misconduct in office.
Why do cops - some at least- get involved in thuggish behavior like this? Crystal's answer was illuminating:
"I think sometimes officers become enthralled in the area they're working in and bring themselves down to the level of the individuals they're trying to protect the citizens from."
Crystal then mentioned being considered for a commendation for his use of force in one takedown. He replied: "Look, I don't need an award for hurting somebody"
"I think sometimes we sensationalize violence and the use of force. I just think that's a mantra we need to get away from. That should be the last resort we do."
But, alas, too many cops in Baltimore resort to "rough rides" to try to teach their detainees a lesson. (A "rough ride” is an unsanctioned technique that some officers use to injure arrestees without physically touching them with their hands or weapons. The driver typically takes intentionally rough or rapid turns around corners or makes sudden stops. Since the suspect is handcuffed, he is unable to brace himself so he falls forward, often bashing his head against the inside of the van)
This vile abuse is used especially if the suspect makes them run in pursuit. (Uh, clue one, maybe work out in a gym or take up jogging!)
Baltimore has a ways to go before fielding a truly respectful Police cadre not given to thuggery. Again, not all cops do this -but enough do to blot the good will of others - especially when whistle blowers are treated the way Joe Crystal was.
As Margaret Kimberley observed (see link below):
The tenuous nature of black life in America is on full display in Baltimore. Three of the officers charged in Gray’s death are also black. The mayor is black, the member of congress for that district is black, the police commissioner is black and none of them could keep Gray from being slammed about in the back of a van and suffering fatal spinal injuries.
There should be no celebrating unless all of the police responsible for Freddie Gray’s death are convicted. There should be no celebrating until Allen Bullock is released from jail. There should be no congratulations to the mayor, congressman or state attorney until they explain why the police prevented children from leaving school and helped to provoke the events which were then so loudly condemned.
In short, there is still no justice in Baltimore, just as there isn’t any for black people in the rest of the country. It is protest, truth telling, and community control of the police and every other facet of public life that will bring an end to the carnage. The slave patrol and the sundown town ought to have disappeared in the 21st century, but for now it is still true that no black life matters.