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Michael Wood Speaks About His Work as a Police Officer

June 26, 2015

An 11-year veteran of the city’s police force says the main thing missing from police today is empathy.
  • On Wednesday, a former Baltimore Police Department officer named Michael Wood caused controversy when he began tweeting some of the horrible things he saw during his 11 years on the job. Officers urinating and defecating in the beds of suspects, routinely stopping and searching people without cause, beatings, corruption, cover ups (planting or eliminating evidence), and targeting black men in ways that fed the cycle of mass incarceration and misery in ghettoized communities. In this interview, he explains that at first the conduct seemed almost normal to him because he had been so brainwashed by the “us vs. them” mentality that defines police culture in this era of mass incarceration. But eventually he had an awakening. In his words:
    “I started to see that these were just people. They weren’t that different from me. They had to pay rent. See their kids off to school. The main difference is that as a white kid growing up in my neighborhood, I was never going to get arrested for playing basketball in the street. I was never going to get patted down because I was standing on a street corner. There was no chance I was going to get a criminal record early on for basically being a kid. As a teen, I was never going to get arrested for having a dime bag in my pocket, because no one would ever have known. There was just no possibility that a cop was ever going to stop me and search me. When you watch people for hours and hours like that, you start to see the big picture. You start to see the cycle of how these kids get put in the system at a young age, often for doing nothing wrong, and how that limits their options, which pushes them into selling drugs or other crime. You start to see that they never had a chance.”

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