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Did a ‘rough ride’ by police cause Freddie Gray’s death in Baltimore?

April 25, 2015 at 6:23 PM EST
Protesters in Baltimore, Maryland, took to the streets Saturday for what they promised would be their biggest march yet after near-daily demonstrations this week over the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, who died from injuries while in police custody. For more about the investigation into his death, Baltimore Sun reporter Luke Broadwater joins Alison Stewart.
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ALISON STEWART, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: For more about the investigation into the death in Baltimore of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, we’re joined now by Luke Broadwater. He is a reporter for “The Baltimore Sun”.

Luke, can you just get up us to speed on where the investigation stands now?

LUKE BROADWATER, BALTIMORE SUN: Yes. The police department is focusing in on what they don’t know and what they still need to figure out.

And there are two key gaps in the information that we know. One is the time from when Freddie Gray runs from police to that time when the first video that we’ve all seen picks him up on the ground, screaming, as police are arresting him. And the second is what happened inside the van?

ALISON STEWART: Let’s talk a little bit more about that time inside the van. There’s been a lot of attention given to what has been called, quote, “rough rides”, giving rough rides to people who are in custody.

Can you explain to our viewers what that means?

LUKE BROADWATER: Well, a rough ride is an unsanctioned technique. It’s actually illegal. You’re not supposed to do it. It violates department policy.

By policy, detainees are supposed to be seatbelted and secured inside a van, and anytime an officer drives erratically to try to throw somebody around and injure them that is intentionally causing harm and that is not allowed under police procedures. There have been multiple lawsuits against the police department, over time, including some big judgments, for these kinds of actions.

And the problem with a rough ride is because the person has their hands handcuffed, they can’t brace themselves. So, if you take a rapid turn around the corner and cause the gentleman to fall forward, bashing his head into something, there’s no way for him to brace himself.

ALISON STEWART: There have been two enormous judgments, one for $39 million for one person, another for $7.4 million. We should say that both of those people were paralyzed. And a third woman is suing in federal court, a third person is suing in federal court.

And I want to read a quote — this is from “The Baltimore Sun”, from some of your colleagues reported. She’s described it this way, “They were breaking really short that I would slam against the wall, and they were taking really, wide fast turns. I couldn’t brace myself, I was terrified.”

So, if we pull out a little bit, does this suggest a bigger problem regarding the police in Baltimore?

LUKE BROADWATER: The Baltimore police have a long and negative history with the city of Baltimore, with the residents. This dates back, frankly, it dates back a century. And I don’t think that necessarily the problems of the police department can be looked at just in a vacuum. Baltimore itself has a long history of racism and racist practices in terms of segregationist housing, where white — covenants for white neighborhoods cause people to live in some neighborhoods and blacks were forced out into other neighborhoods.

And to this day, we’ve seen the ramifications of that. Under two mayors ago, Governor O’Malley in a tough-on-crime effort, a program called Zero Tolerance was put into place, and that resulted in over 100,000 arrests of Baltimore City residents almost every year. That’s about one in six people in Baltimore were arrested. And sometimes as much as a fourth of those cases didn’t even result in charges. And those resulted in a big rift between the community and the police department.

ALISON STEWART: Luke Broadwater from “The Baltimore Sun” — thanks for sharing your reporting, Luke.

LUKE BROADWATER: Thank you.

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