In the middle of an East Baltimore street, three police officers struggled to subdue an alleged drug dealer as a gathering crowd screamed objections and recorded the officers’ every move. A video of the incident last week quickly racked up tens of thousands of views on Facebook. The footage shows an officer pushing the man’s chest onto the pavement and placing a knee on his lower back, reports the Baltimore Sun. By the time the confrontation was over, one officer had a dislocated shoulder and two men were arrested. Some witnesses at the scene and commenters on Facebook saw police harassment of citizens in the video. Others saw citizen harassment of police. The police department says a review of the video and officer body-camera footage determined the officers acted appropriately in the face of an aggressive crowd.
The department says the incident captured in the video, while alarming, isn’t particularly surprising. Officials say it reflects the daily reality for officers responding to crime in the city. “It shows you how quickly a scene can turn chaotic,” said T.J. Smith, police spokesman. “They simply try to arrest those who are dealing drugs, and they have to deal with a hostile environment as a result.” Lt. Gene Ryan, president of the local police union, said he watched the video alongside top brass at police headquarters, and believes it shows more than a few bystanders threatening the officers. “It was outrageous. It was appalling. How can you effectively police in a city that has no respect for authority?” Ryan asked. “They just totally disrespected the police officers. They invaded their personal space when the officers were attempting to do the job they are sworn to do.”