While I do not agree with the sentiment, I can certainly understand the cynicism honest people might have with the defense scenario offered by the six Baltimore police officers recently charged in Freddie Gray’s death. Reasonable people have a difficult time understanding things that, while unbelievable in their world, are routine in a cop’s world.
When writing my first book, Is There a Problem, Officer? I went round and round with an editor who refused to believe that anyone would not obey orders and would even swear at a police officer. She thought I was making it up for dramatic effect. I’m not sure if I ever truly convinced her that people swear at cops—all the time, but the story made it into the book, so…
People don’t believe that Freddie Gray would have intentionally injured himself to avoid going to jail or in an attempt to frame the officers for police brutality. To the reasonable person, this behavior is difficult to fathom. For the unreasonable cop haters, it provides much fodder for their animus. For the reasonable police officer, this behavior happens daily.
Back in the ‘90s a sergeant had another officer and me team up to transport a domestic violence assault suspect from the scene to the jail, as he was deemed too unruly for just one officer. On the way to the jail, our prisoner, in the backseat, kicked at the patrol car’s windows and at the cage behind our seats, and screamed and yelled in Farsi, his native language. Just before we arrived at the jail, our suspect began smashing his forehead into the sharp bottom edge of the barrier, which separates suspects from officers.
We arrived at the jail within a few seconds of when he began banging his head and got out to gain control of him, so he wouldn’t injure himself further. Even in this short time, he had significant lacerations on his forehead. Blood covered his face, as head wounds bleed heavily. As we walked the kicking, flailing and bleeding suspect into the jail processing area where the corrections officers were waiting with a specialty restraint chair used at the time for uncooperative prisoners, I can easily see where a group of “reasonable” people might suspect that we’d used excessive force on the suspect during the transport. However, neither the reasonable corrections officers nor the reasonable cops thought anything unusual about a prisoner injuring him or herself. Once again, this is a case that points to how poorly law enforcement educates the public about what cops do.
Yes, Virginia, suspects fake illnesses and attempt to injure themselves often. In fact, cops have a word for it: Incarceritis. Suspects are perfectly healthy one moment but suddenly suffer catastrophic medical issues once they learn they are going to jail. But, don’t ask just any reasonable person about this phenomenon; ask a reasonable cop.