EDITORIAL: Baltimore riots impede needed change

York Dispatch

Stories about deadly confrontations between officers and black men have become regular occurrences.

One or two cases — maybe those could be attributed to a rogue cop or a violent suspect and not some larger, systemic issue.

But these are happening one after another, all over the country, with the victims suspected of little more than nuisance violations, such as selling loose cigarettes.

Sometimes a black man's only crime is running from officers — and who could blame him at this point? — yet still it costs him his life.

Perhaps Freddie Gray was thinking of Walter Scott — the black, South Carolina motorist shot in the back and killed earlier this month after a routine traffic stop — when he spotted Baltimore police officers April 12. For whatever reason, the 25-year-old bolted.

Gray was caught, handcuffed and loaded into a police van, according to The Associated Press. He was later placed in leg restraints when he became "irate," but he was never belted into a seat, as is Baltimore Police Department policy.

Less than an hour later, paramedics were summoned to the city's Western District station, where they found Gray in "serious medical distress," the Baltimore Sun reported.

He died a week later of a spinal cord injury.

The police have not been able to explain how Gray was hurt while in their custody. Six officers have been suspended while the department tries to figure it out.

Many residents of Baltimore have reached their own conclusions, taking to the streets in violent protests over the past few days while demanding an end to police brutality.

Clashes between rioters and police resulted in at least 15 officers being hurt, 144 vehicle fires, 15 structure fires and about 200 arrests, according to AP.

Maryland's governor declared a state of emergency, and by Tuesday thousands of National Guard soldiers were patrolling Baltimore's streets.

Gray's family wants answers, but they joined the chorus condemning the riots.

"I think the violence is wrong," Gray's twin sister, Fredericka Gray, told AP. "I don't like it at all."

With every new case like Freddie Gray's, it's becoming clear we have a policing problem in America.

But rioters destroying their own communities, their neighbors' property and ability to make a living isn't going to fix it.

That's more likely to cement the "us-against-them" attitude that seems to be at the root of the problem.

The sooner order is restored, the sooner Charm City and the rest of the country can have a productive discussion about changing the way law enforcement operates.