Tag Archives: Uprising

Blogs & Writings

My Take on “Safe Spaces”

I have heard plenty about “safe spaces” lately, as many of us have. What seems to always lack is a fundamental understanding of what a “safe space” is and why they are needed. Granted, this explanation is heavily directed towards protesting. The expression of why was famously demonstrated by my brother, Kwame Rose, when he confronted Geraldo Rivera on television during the Baltimore uprising. What Kwame was expressing is this frustration in grassroots activism where media comes from all over when something sensational happens, but they come to tell their story, not the story of what is really going on or even why these events are going on. They come and they take snippets of what we say and twist the context to fit their narrative, their agenda, and far too often their agenda, involves words like thug, “black-on-black” crime, bootstraps, children of addict parents, and much more. They loop the CVS burning, never asking why. They loop the outliers, so infuriated with oppression that they lash out, but they never ask why. They never follow-up, they never ask Kwame why he is there, instead they tell you why he is there and ask why he does not go home.

Sometimes this happens with the best of intentions as well. I assure you that what you see of me in Fixing the System with VICE on HBO, #BlackLivesMatter documentary, and many other appearances, do not tell the full narrative, do not capture the complete nuance, and (hopefully) were not the smartest things I said those days. What is missing, can be told by the Baltimore uprising. During the cleanup of the uprising, a friend of mine was in town from Dallas, David Smalley, who hosts a podcast called Dogma Debate. After talking about the movement, I took David down to Penn North to see. What David saw was a community united. White, black, young, old, gay, queer, straight, educated, uneducated, and more. There was music, cookouts, songs, dancing, and a feeling of hope that you could taste in the air. David was shocked because all he heard was those media presentations from his home in Dallas.

David was almost jovial that we had to tell this on his podcast and we did, long before that media sensationalism brought my name to your ears. So what is a safe space then? A safe space is a facet of an attempt to control the narrative of the movement, so that what is really going on is told. A sister in the movement, Makayla Gilliam-Price, started a different facet, organizing and publishing independently, which you can see is about “controlling our narrative.” A safe space is demanding the respect of those around to not come in to a designated area where comrades are free to relax a little and converse without something being taken out of context and made a national headline. While we can argue about that being the best response, remember that those who did not understand what it was, is simply because you did not bother to ask. If you are demanding the truth from your media, this would not be a thing. As you complain about safe spaces, I find it ironic that it is only because you failed to take the bare minimum of journalistic integrity, asking the people in the safe spaces what it means. I do not know if I agree with them or not, but I care enough to understand why and respect it.

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Blogs & Writings In The News

What Resides in Dark Corners (a response to a letter from the Baltimore Police Department)

Kevin Davis,

I am often perplexed at exactly what to do about bringing reform to policing. It seems as though it has been quite a long time that the obvious issues surrounding policing have been brought to the forefront and I cannot think of anything significant which has changed. It has been a long time since Freddie Gray met the indifference of police culture toward citizen life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Yet, nothing in Baltimore has changed. Arguably, it has become worse. The focus, for me, has been in revolution as opposed to retribution, so I have not named those in the past. That choice is very open to criticism. It cannot be said that I am entirely convinced that tactic is the best path forward.

What I am convinced of, is that this tactic has provided a curtain for which the commanders of the Baltimore Police Department can hide behind. This brings us to this correspondence sent to me dated September 11, 2015. Do not think that we cannot see the subtle jabs of not using my rank. Do not think that we cannot see the laziness and lack of professionalism in misspelling my name, removing the “interim” from police commissioner, atrocious grammar, and calling the agency by its wrong name (it is the Baltimore Police Department, not the Baltimore City Police Department maybe you guys would know that if you cared). Do not think that we do not find it ridiculous that “direct result” is three months later. Do not think that we do not see through the insincerity of the words contained in this letter.

I find it preposterous that if you cared, you would not pick up a phone, you would not speak to me at a protest, that you would not expect me to conform to your time frame and location. You know where I live. You know I seek a public and transparent forum. It is in the desire for transparency that you hide. I do not seek closed door meetings and you have used that to pretend to care. You stand in the safety of your building and ask me to come inside, as if there is some hope of justice under that roof. The problem is that I have worked under that roof, I know that it is a black hole from which the truth never escapes.

How do I get you and your agency into the light? I do it by doing the opposite of what the Baltimore Police Department does. You are not alone in your actions, as policing in America loves to put the responsibility of doing the “right thing” on the community. So now, let us put the responsibility of doing the “right thing” on the people who are actually sworn to do the right thing. Yes, there is one thing I have refused to do and that is to name, names. I still think that retribution is the wrong approach because it is the people in command who set the system up and push officers into this mentality. It is once again shedding leadership, making a mockery of the word, and that does not seem to matter to you. I have left one corner dark. I think that corner should be left dark, but since you have chosen to hide in it, I am left with no choice.

I know you can search the complaints and internal reports and most likely piece this stuff together, but let us play along and pretend you cannot. Here is what I will do. I will provide the details, including names, of my first two reports back in June 2015. The detective who slapped the innocent lady (although you probably already have a complaint on file corresponding to that allegation) and the officer who kicked the handcuffed suspect (who went to the hospital and would be incredibly easy to find) are these two incidents. Together, we can shed light into that remaining dark corner. It is this light that we can bring about reform and public trust. I will participate 100% in these investigations, but first, we shed the light, first we serve the public’s interest. The price for what you say you want is free. An open and honest conversation between Kevin Davis and me for one hour, live, no commercials, unedited, uploaded to YouTube, and without distribution or use limitations.

Michael A. Wood Jr.

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Note: Please feel free to repost/reprint

Related: An interview with the Baltimore cop who’s revealing all the horrible things he saw on the job

 

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In The News

Former Baltimore Police [Sergeant] Michael Wood Jr. Discusses Police Culture, Prospects for Reform

“On August 3, I conducted a phone interview with former Baltimore Police [Sergeant] Michael Wood (not pictured above, but still, motorcycles), who entered the national conversation about policing this past June with a series of tweets documenting the problematic and abusive practices he witnessed while a Baltimore police officer. Our discussion touched on a variety of issues including police culture, training, the prospects for reform and who should have a seat at the table in that discussion.” – Roberto Alejandro

Visit the website to play the interview, but also just visit his website, the work is very good and helps move the discussion forward honestly. This conversation is very laid back and it like having a normal conversation with me. If you want to hear me be 100% professional, this one isn’t for you, but really if you want someone 100% profession, I’m probably not your guy anyway.

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Articles Blogs & Writings In The News

What is Your Vision of the Future, Police & Citizens?

For those that do not see it my way. Those who think police need to continue on this war against its citizens. That police need to ensure ultimate compliance with the law, for our safety, of course. What does your vision of the future look like? I see it as armed occupiers, armored vehicles, and cameras on every corner, ensuring that the servants obey the masters. Even if you are right and that is the safest path. Is that the vision of the future that we want to work towards? Do we want to spend our money, sacrifice the lives of our loved ones, imprison our fellow human beings in cages, criminalize those in need of mental/medical care, pick up the bodies of youths lost to the inevitable wars of prohibition, and imprison our lives in fears of the others? Or, do we want to band together and strive towards the visions I speak of along with, DeRay McKesson, Bree Newsome, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, and many others. Our future is a different one altogether. It is a world in which human beings return to being one.

 

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Articles Blogs & Writings In The News

A Response to Fred Bealefeld & Gregg Bernstein – How Law Enforcement Gets it All Wrong

It is in the first sentence of, An open letter to Baltimore’s interim police commissioner from Fred Bealefeld and Gregg Bernstein that a huge problem with law enforcement is revealed. “Beginning in 2008, the number of homicides and shootings in Baltimore began to steadily decline, culminating with a homicide rate below 200 in 2011, which had not occurred since 1977 (nor been repeated since).” The reform in policing that I have been advocating starts with empathy, but the second principle is science. Law enforcement is dominated by ideology, not scientific rigor. Somehow, this has spilled into the culture of every facet of criminal justice, even academia. As the letter states of the strategies (which are really ideologies), “They are not complicated or novel; indeed, it is public safety 101.” They are right, it is.

This issue is why current and past leaders in command are, for the most part, wholly blind to what am I am saying and trying to advance. It is a struggle to criticize these ideas without criticizing the individuals. I am stating that policing has become blinded, not that they are blind. In the case of former commissioner, Fred Bealefeld, I like the guy, liked talking to him, he recognized my way of thinking, but, “Bad Guys with Guns” is not a crime strategy, it is simply a tagline. The plan had nothing remotely resembling a crime plan. A crime plan ties together each and every facet of the agency into a mutual goal, each having their own roles and milestones to achieve. This is at the minimum. In practice, the strategy focused on only one thing, bad guys. Who were the bad guys that police in Baltimore look for? I have already explained it, approximately 16-24 year old black males.

It is not just Baltimore that goes after this group of citizens, as they state with pride in the letter, they did not do it alone. This strategy, this thinking, this ideology was also agreed upon by all of their federal, state, and local partners. All of them seeing no problem with this and no problem with reducing victimization of humans to the cold numbers of stat chasing with Comstat, Gunstat, Policestat, and more. Something is very wrong with what we are doing. The cognitive dissonance is staggering. The further writings in the open letter, discuss engaging the community, and that it is more than just “much deeper than just locking up bad guys” (even though that was the only plan). You will see these types of statements being made all around law enforcement, we have been taught what to say and we have been taught what to do, but those things have nothing in common.

It’s easy to say, look crime went down when we did this. That is nothing more than a correlation in reference to an anecdotal event. The problem with portraying anecdotes of success as an actual plans that work, is that it is not viewed in its totality. Science and professionalism are badly missing from police strategy and criminal justice as a whole. For something to be considered a fact, it must be reproducible. For example, either this is not a sound strategy or every other police leader is a fool for not adopting it because it would reproduce the same results. Think of fighting crime like mowing the lawn and grass represents crime. The proponents of an aggressive response, develop big and strong lawn mowers to chop down the grass. They may be good at it, they may be great at it, but they only see with blinders on. They hate grass, mow down grass, and store the clippings in a bin away from the land. What they are not seeing is that their big and strong lawn mower is towing a spreader full of fertilizer and seeds. The fertilizer contains lack of opportunity, poor socioeconomic conditions, institutionalized racism, breaking down of families, hopelessness, over charging, power imbalances, corruption of justice, militarization, housing segregation, feeding of the prison complex, a war on drugs, and more. They rarely, if ever, stand back to notice that they are making the situation worse in the long term.

It is awfully coincidental that crime is never addressed with these types of methods in rural, country, suburban, or even Baltimore’s own white neighborhoods. An actual strategy to address crime would work in any neighborhood because crime is a human thing. These are not sound strategies. We need a far reaching rethinking of what policing is. Proactive policing is a term that is generally used as a justification for heavy handed police actions which have the intention of preventing crime. If police are to prevent crime, we have to have to work on killing the roots, not reinventing and improving upon ways to keep our grass cutting business going.

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In The News

Lions of Liberty Podcast Ep. 128: Michael A. Wood, Jr. – Former Baltimore Cop Exposes Police Brutality

In this episode of the Lions of Liberty Podcast, host Marc Clair is joined by former Baltimore police officer Michael A. Wood, who recently made headlines for a series of tweets exposing instances of police brutality he witnessed during his 11 year with the Baltimore PD. Michael explains what drove his desire to become a police officer from a very young age, and how his view of the role of police was gradually altered during his time serving as a police officer on the streets of Baltimore. Marc and Michael discuss the case of Freddie Gray, the questionable circumstances surrounding his arrest, and why the abuse Gray likely received at the hands of police officers is so common. Michael describes the many instances of police brutality he witnessed as an officer, the inherent racism of policing in the United States, and how even minority officers so easily become a part of the problem. Michael touches on what he sees as the root of the problems with police brutality, and what he thinks can be done to see true reform and justice going forward.

Don’t miss this revealing episode, and stay tuned for Marc’s own thoughts in the wrap-up rant!

 

 

 

iTunes

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-lions-of-liberty-podcast/id706061933?mt=2

Stitcher Radio

http://www.stitcher.com/podcast/lions-of-liberty-podcast

Podbean

http://lionsoflibertypodcast.podbean.com

The show also airs at 6pm EST, August 8 at:

LibertyTalk.FM

http://libertytalk.fm/

And throughout the week at the Liberty Radio Network

http://lrn.fm/

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