May 1, 2015

Prisoners Do Self Harm While In Police Custody

90 Miles From Tyranny has a post regarding Freddie Gray - the man who died while in custody of the Baltimore PD, the alleged cause of the recent riots.

As the internal investigation continues into the death of Baltimore resident Freddie Gray, a document has leaked that claims a fellow prisoner in the van with Gray told police that the deceased man was “trying to injure himself.”

According to The Washington Post a prisoner who was also being transported in the police van on April 12 said he could hear Gray “banging against the walls” and said that he felt that Gray “was intentionally trying to injure himself.”

Until now there has been no speculation on how Gray could have entered the police van in perfectly functional condition only to be found unresponsive by the time the transport van arrived at the police station a half-hour later.
The Important Question is this - why would a man injure himself on purpose while in police custody?

I am not going to absolve the BPD of any wrong doing - I do not have first hand knowledge of the circumstances surrounding Gray's arrest and subsequent demise. But there is this- I've arrested a lot of people, many of them were screwed up in some way: drunk, high on drugs, filled with rage or just plain crazy who wind up in jail. Plus there are a lot of connivers who think they are smarter than the cops who want to build a scam lawsuit to use as leverage to reduce charges or to convince a hungry attorney to sue. While working uniform patrol I was sued twice by people like this, once in state court and once in federal court.

Allow me to relate one instance or deliberate self injure. Some drunk 19-year old kid was driving like a madman in my beat during an Upstate NY snowstorm. We got him cornered in a fenced in lot and he tried to run me over. He had left the passenger side door open and as he went by I opened it and climbed in. After a brief struggle he was subdued but I had to take him to the hospital for medical care - in his case some stitches.

When I finally get him to booking, he is videotaped and then placed in a holding cell and start the arrest paperwork. I hear a BAM BAM BAM - the kid is slamming his face against the big thick Plexiglas window of the cell. This kind of behavior is not uncommon and the sheriff deputies assigned to booking handle it in the standard manner. They put a football helmet on him.

Okay, there's blood on the Plexiglas and the kid's head is now covered in protective gear. I go back to my paperwork.

Aside - there's a whole mess of paperwork to do because the kid's parents drove to the hospital ER and started a riot. His father was a Russian Orthodox priest and his mother was nuts - tried to take me out with an IV pole in the ER. Locked them all up too - they were in the holding cell next to junior. It was bedlam - everyone screaming at each other and me in Russian.

Now behind me, the kid is finally quiet but he is sitting on the floor of the holding cell using the bench seat to pry the chin strap off. I finally look up and see this and start to call out to the deputies. The holding cell door is locked and I can't get in to stop him. The deputies are busy with another prisoner.

The kid gets the strap off, stares at me with this insane, triumphant look and promptly starts to slam his face repeatedly into the window again. I start yelling. The deputies drop everything and rush over with duct tape. The kid's face is a mess, he's bleeding afresh, covered in duct tape and screaming in Russian. Just another day....

People self harm while in custody. Did Gray also injure himself? I certainly would not hesitate to believe the other prisoner who stated this. We've had prisoners dent steel doors with their heads by running into them on purpose.


LL said...

Anyone who has worn a badge for any time at all has seen this sort of insane conduct that is often the product of ingestion of some sort of chemical (occasionally brewed up in a bathtub).

Nobody knows whether BPD hurt him or he hurt himself, however, I will say this. When BPD took custody of the man, nuts or not, they had the responsibility of caring for him. If he's in the back of the van behaving like a berserk animal, they should have pulled over to check his welfare...just saying. Again, we've all seen it. And we've all written paper on it.

Doom said...


I believe there was at least one, and possibly a number, of stops. I suspect they did make attempts to stop his behavior. But just as anyone who works to protect someone, the one thing you can't really do much about is those who are willing to lose their lives in the pursuit of... anything. Even if it is themselves they are meaning to hurt or kill.

Just what do they have with them that would allow them to restrain someone well enough that they can't hurt themselves? Do they have head gear? Do they have straight jackets? Do they have medication? My guess is there isn't much that they honestly could have done. Nor, in some cases, would it be at all wise or safe to put someone back there with him.

While I don't have all the info, I am calling this, for my own sake, as just another gremlin doing what gremlins do. On the political and economic front? If the city falls to ruin for it, all the better. May they burn all their prosperity and be left with exactly what they elected and are seemingly now supporting. Detroit, here they go!

Kid said...

I see what you're describing on reality cop shows all the time.

LL said...

I honestly don't know what the policy at BPD is or what the officers did or didn't do with the now deceased. I haven't delved.

A good and impartial investigation will get to the truth of the matter. Whether that can happen or not is up for grabs.

jenny said...

Naivete speaking... but couldn't they set up some sort hidden internal camera inside these vans/holding cells? Sounds expensive, but so are frivolous lawsuits, drawn out investigations, and full blown inner city riots-- not to mention the expense of ruining the careers of police officers involved.

WoFat said...

Hidden internal camera systems cost - ongoing - money.

sig94 said...

Jenny - it seems society wants cops to be recorded every step of the way in every and any circumstance. We really should be doing this to politicians.

As far as camera systems in patrol cars, officer body cams and now paddy wagon cams .... holding cells in booking many times have video cameras on whenever someone is being held there. Usually the videos are kept for two to four weeks. Paddy wagons are a little different due to space limitations, multiple prisoners, camera placement, etc ... it could be done.

For the overwhelming number of prisoner transports it is a waste of time. Many prisoners are not transported in these types of vehicles but in the back seat of a police car. To put these sytems in the back of every police car - who's going to store all those videos? The Dept? You wouldn't believe the resources that go into video storage now.

Sadly, what we need are citizens who will not burn and loot at the slightest pretext.

jenny said...

Haha-- I really like the comment about recording politicians! GOOD POINT. It's ridiculous that they are more "trusted" than police officers.

I don't know the logistics of video storage; I could see how it would be overly burdensome. And for sure, the onus is on the general population to be more sane and respectful-- but barring that, I just wish there were a way to protect the cops from strategic defamation.

Kid said...

Politician cameras? They wouldn't get anything done. That would be GREAT!

sig94 said...

The best weapon a cop has against this kind of action is his brain. If you're in uniform you may as well pretend that everything you say and do is recorded. Never let your guard down, no matter how trivial the task at hand seems.

Or get a job as a fireman. Everybody loves firemen and you get paid to sleep.