Lost in the attention of my Twitter timeline, was the series of tweets I posted about the treatment of Baltimore’s police officers. There is reason why they feel attacked by the city, it just may be a little displaced.

Here is what I said that day, 26 June 2015:

My main call is for empathy.

Today’s posts are quite fitting in the light of marriage equality.

I am a humanist & I see us as all one… family.

I care nothing of flags, borders, and other social constructs of division. Many of those listening lack empathy for the LGBT… community. Take a long hard look in the mirror if you lack empathy for LGBT causes, while expecting empathy from others. In that same vein, some empathy needs to be extended to the current and past police officers who are caught up in a blinding culture.

In policing, the greatest enemy comes from within, command staff. The commanders in policing drive the oppression of police and citizens…

With that, my first foray into being vocal about injustice, the story of Keith Romans.

DC Skinner actively pushed me to cover an NLOD hearing loss for one of his good ol’ boys, while pushing to not protect hate crime victim… Jermaine Cook

Fmr. Detective Cook ended up with a measly pension w/ the argument that he did not have his gun. Seemed 2 me, he did not have the right skin

It is impossible to follow all the rules, they contradict, resources & time are not there, this is how they can come after anyone at any time

@joecrystalxxx got the stats that command demanded, but the moment he spoke up, well…

Everything is arrest stats, command couldn’t care less about crime rate. Arrests show work & control.

An actual strategy they use is to lock up people so they won’t get victimized. Ironic.

During the riots, officers were ordered to process arrests that they weren’t even there for.

7pm-3am shifts with 9am court, destroy your sanity, your family, your life.

BPD has had the city violate contracts, refuse payment, steal from the pension, & more, all w/o care

Part of why OT manipulation is accepted, is because the city takes, takes, takes

I was personally affected by some of these things and was infuriated over the treatment of some individual officers and the agency as a whole. There are three main areas, working conditions, contract violations, and an investment in training that should embarrass all of us. These issues are not the cause of the problems with police culture, but they certainly exacerbate the “us versus them” mentality, as officers feel as though they cannot trust their fronts or their backs. It was often said amongst my colleagues that the biggest threat to an individual officer comes from within the agency, not from the streets. I believed this to be true then as well as now. Not once was I fearful of what happened on the streets, but many times I was of supervisors, command staff, and the city’s leaders. I have no reason to believe that I am alone in that conviction.

The biggest threat to the safety of a law enforcement officer comes from the federal government.

That threat is the war on drugs and for that matter, any “crimes” between consenting adults.

The vast majority of violence that a police officer encounters is a result of the narcotics trade.

The city pays millions in workman’s compensation claims, medical retirements, damaged equipment, and more, all because of trying to do something which we absolutely know does not work and is killing police and community relations, prohibition. If the federal, state, and local governments actually cared about the lives and safety of law enforcement officers, they would end this war on drugs.

Just take a minute to think about that.

Law enforcement is waging a war on the citizens of this nation. People can sit around and discuss the ideology of legalization and regulation all they want. The facts have proven and will continue to prove that there is not a single policy since slavery which has done more harm to this nation.

I am not filling this writing with statistics because it is necessary that if you do not believe me, you research and see for yourself to understand that this is the main fuel for violent crime in our cities and threats to the safety of our officers.

If the police unions actually cared about their officers, this would be the main fight.

Not protecting ridiculous advantages for criminal cops, not playing patty-cake with officials in the public sphere, not contributing to politicians who promise additional benefits, not blindly defending the cops who tarnish our badge, not seeking government funds to enact more arrests, not collecting the same equipment used in military combat, not ignoring the racism in our institution, and not perpetrating a war against the already disenfranchised.

This war fuels the school to prison cycle and destroys the lives of many officers. It is minor in comparison to the threat to citizens, but working in “the game” places officers in a perpetual cycle of conflict.

The time spent at work, is time spent fighting a war.

That war is largely fought between the hours of seven at night, until at least three in the morning, and continues at, almost daily, court at nine in the morning. Add to the officer’s hours, travel time and sleep, and very little is left for families and wellbeing.

For the most part, the district buildings should be condemned. The vehicles can be so poor, they are scary to operate. Necessary equipment is often an absolute struggle to maintain. Stats, stats, stats, are all anyone judges officers upon. Officers ride alone, continually spread thin. Citations and reports are handwritten in the cars, like it is 1982. No one in the agency ever seems to care about you as a human with emotional and physical needs.

There’s much more, but take a minute to let an active officer explain those things to you.

For Baltimore, the Mayor completely violated the contracts which were backed by law. How do you change such a contract? Well, you change the law of course. That incredibly dishonest action resulted in officers who took a job in the hardest area to work in the state, maybe anywhere in the U.S., having more reason to do as little as possible and burn out. Officers and their families made life plans based upon what they signed up for, the ripple effect of that violation extends far beyond the black and white text in the law books. For a very long time, the pension contributions were not made and were even taken for other purposes. The retirement minimum was changed from twenty years to twenty-five years. Tuition reimbursement was stopped in the middle of officers attending college and attempting, on their own, to increase their professionalism. Keep in mind that the one solid correlation to reducing excessive force, is a college education. The cost of living adjustments to pensions were made to not start until the age of sixty-five. That means that a young officer, like Keith Romans, who served heroically and was left permanently disabled (for P/O Romans, a bullet forever lodged in his neck and a pathetic pension) will not see so much as a measly cost of living adjustment for up to forty-two years. Yes, forty-two years.

It may have surprised many when I commented to The Washington Post, BuzzFeed, BBC, Dogma Debate, Joe Rogan Experience, and The Young Turks about the abysmal training and skills of Baltimore’s police officers. It may seem like I am being insulting and I am, but not to the officers. It is not the officers’ fault that they lack basic skills in law, articulation, self-control, marksmanship, self-defense, physicality, tactics, et cetera, it is the fault of their lack of appropriate training. The absolute only reason that I have those skills is because of the United States Marine Corps and higher education, the BPD taught me, literally, next to nothing. There was a situation which made me quickly realize this. I apologize to the officers that were with me, if they are offended.

There was a call that an individual, wanted on a murder warrant, was in a house in the Eastern District. Only two supervisors were working, a senior Sergeant and me. The other Sergeant was also a former Marine and sought a life of self-improvement in his skills on his own (If I were the Commissioner, he would be my right hand). After preliminary investigation, we determined that a hasty entry was necessary. As the leaders during this call, we should have been at the back, coordinating. Instead, there was a slightly awkward moment where we made eye contact, looked at our entry team, and both of us moved to the front of the team, as we knew that we simply could not allow those officers to go first. They completely lacked the skills to take on this risk. When we made entry, that assumption was verified, as we encountered a surprising amount of threats in the location, including the murder suspect. The suspect was apprehended, absolutely zero force was used, but I cannot help to think that if it were not him and me leading that entry, things could have went downhill incredibly fast. In my USMC unit, this thought would have never even crossed our minds, every single Marine could have lead that entry. That is not an indictment on those officers, it is an indictment to every single member in command. It is unacceptable. Urban policing, around the country, is not a profession. American law enforcement, as a whole, is dominated by false ideologies and cross your fingers, hope nothing goes wrong.

Crossing the fingers is what Commissioner Batts did, and Acting Commissioner Davis was at his side. Baltimore and America deserve much better. I am seeking to ignite the conversation on both sides of the aisle. Do not even pay attention to the name at the bottom of this writing. Contrary to the common thinking, I have nothing to gain other than a better America for our children. I write and speak out of a moral and ethical obligation to society, as well as embarrassment that I did not see it earlier. You can take the discussion to your neighborhood and your department, empathy goes both ways, respect is a two-way street, and the drug war is killing us all. This is an uprising, an uprising of humanity. Join us.

Michael A. Wood Jr.