There’s a scene in The Wire, one of the best shows ever because if you live in a big city you know that a lot of its fiction is true, where the white cop wrongly arrests a black preacher and accuses him of being a drug dealer. Later, people who were knowledgeable about the rules in the book found a way to fire him but not directly because of that indiscretion but for losing valuable equipment on a stakeout.
I couldn’t help but be reminded of that scene when I read that Pittsburgh police officer Jonathan Gromek had arrested (apparently without good cause if I’m reading the press reports and videos correctly) one black man and harassed another at, get this, the aftermath of a community meeting where one of the topics concerned was about police community relationships. I’m almost tempted to think that somebody paid him to be provocative just to prove a point.
In fact, judging from the video it looks like Dennis Henderson himself took, it looks like he was arrested for brandishing a phone camera. I should point out that taping the police might be illegal in some places but its a losing federal battle and I hope this a battle that the police lose. The only thing I can think of for not wanting to be filmed while policing is that your policing is unfounded and very bad or as it says at the video “Police intimidation and aggression in Homewood.” It also seems, and I say this as a large black man who has had far too many encounters with the police (especially when canvassing in white neighborhoods…), that Henderson was guilty of being “uppity”. Or as the New Pittsburgh Courier phrases it: “Talking while black.” These things aren’t actually crimes if you live in a truly free society.
The person this police officer harassed but didn’t arrest was apparently a reporter and photographer for my old newspaper The New Pittsburgh Courier. You can read that full story at the New Pittsburgh Courier.
Prediction: This is a town, like many other towns, where black people can get beaten and killed and the police face no penalties whatsoever. Just here in Pittsburgh there’s the legacy of Johnny Gammage (I believe that cop who shot him still has a job and if he lost it he certainly didn’t lose it over shooting some black guy perish the thought…) and Jordan Miles. This is partly what set off Chris Dorner. He lost his job for, probably, accurately reporting police brutality while white officers kept their jobs even after beatdowns and abuses. So don’t be surprised if Jonathan Gromek keeps his job.
I’m also not encouraged by the comments of Gromek’s boss. I need to quote those from the Post Gazette in a very fair use kind of way:
Zone 5 police Cmdr. Timothy O’Connor called Wednesday’s encounter an “isolated incident.””I understand the community is upset about this, but there is nobody targeting them,” he said. “We don’t have these things every day and it’s a good thing. Hopefully, we don’t have another one of these for many years.”
Yeah he should have just referred to that isolated incident — which is why we have a police review board no doubt — as “hijinks” or “shenanigans”. It’s not that harmless when the other guy has a gun and, let’s face it, a license to kill for very spurious reasons. Gromek should be fired but don’t hold your breath. I would like to think that new Pittsburgh mayor Bill Peduto would hire a police chief who thinks Gromek should be fired.
Related: There are a number of youtube videos about this incident. I found three. I’ve uploaded one. You can find the other ones here and here. Sort of Related: I’m still not happy with the poor work and performance of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission. (PHRC). I think my original statement with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC) was a winner. I tend to think I’m the winner when I catch the defendant Peter Gidas lying 6 to 8 times.