Michael A. Wood Jr. is a former police officer that was hired by the Baltimore, MD police department in 2003. He spent eleven years working in various post as a police officer until being forced to retire due to a shoulder injury. With a huge spotlight on the city of Baltimore because of the death of Freddie Gray at the hands of the police and other cases of police brutality, Mr. Wood has come forward to shed light on the culture of the police department.
Michael Wood took to his Twitter account to detail some of the horrendous cases of police abuse he witnessed against the Black community in Baltimore. Here are some of those tweets:
During a video interview with Slate, Mr. Wood takes the viewer on a journey of some of the streets he patrolled as a beat cop. In the video, he detailed the mindset of some of the individuals that are cops patrolling the streets of Baltimore. He explained the way he looked at the job after a few years on the force by saying, “I never feared the streets but I constantly feared other officers.” It seems that a major issue within police departments is that police officers are not capable or empowered to report civilian abuses that they witness. In several interviews, Mike Wood said that all too often when Black citizens are shot, it’s because the officer involved is scared. And he explained “If you’re afraid, you can do whatever you want, that’s the legal standard.” According to Mr. Wood, most of his time with the Baltimore PD was “…focused on the crime of being Black and poor.”
In addition to Michael Wood, another former Baltimore police officer, Det. Joseph Crystal, has come out to detail the abusive nature within the city’s police department. In a federal lawsuit, Mr. Crystal alleges that he was forced to resign from the Baltimore PD because of retaliation from other officers. In 2011, Joe Crystal reported to his superior officers that a drug suspect was beaten by two police officers. What followed his report of abuse is a series of threats and taunts, officers refusing to provide backup during drug raids, and a dead rat placed on the windshield of his car. “People don’t like you, and you need to watch your back,” Crystal alleges a cop said to him in his lawsuit. Because of the complaint that was filed by Joe Crystal, the officers that assaulted the handcuffed suspect, were found guilty of assault and obstruction of justice, and guilty of misconduct.
Although these officers have openly detailed the level of systemic abuse within the Baltimore police department, little seemed to have changed. And according to Michael Wood, the things he revealed are not unique to Baltimore. In fact, “you could take a cop out of Philly and put him in Baltimore and he’d get along just fine. You can take a cop out of New Orleans or Chicago and do the same. Big cities obviously are going to have different problems. But the culture is the same everywhere. The driving part of the police in Ferguson is no different than it is in Baltimore: It’s us against them.”