Why Police Are So Violent Toward Black Men
In the words of an ex–Baltimore police officer.
A scathing new Department of Justice report found that the Baltimore Police Department systematically targeted black residents and violated their civil rights. In 2015, Leon Neyfakh interviewed Michael Wood Jr., a retired Baltimore cop, about why the department is so violent toward young black men.
This past year has seen an enormous amount of attention paid to the toxic divide between police departments and the poor, black communities they serve. One thing we’ve learned is that tribal loyalty often prevents police officers from criticizing each other or their departments publicly—and at least sometimes, they lie when one of their own faces charges of misconduct. That’s why the recent emergence of Michael Wood Jr., a retired Baltimore cop, as a critic of law enforcement culture landed with impact: His voice was the relatively rare one that spoke with the knowledge of an insider but the unforgiving skepticism of an outsider.
In this video, you’ll meet Wood while he drives the streets of the city where he served as a police officer for 11 years, and hear him lay out his conception of what’s going wrong in the world of policing and how it could be made right.
Only have a minute? Here are the parts you shouldn’t miss:
At 2:40, Wood describes his biggest fear while working on the force.
At 6:20, he identifies the type of officers who are most likely to act irrationally in high-stress situations.
At 8:10, Wood pivots to a systemic problem throughout the force: how easily anger among officers can turn toxic.
At 10:30, Wood offers his own proposal to change the cycle.
Leon Neyfakh is a Slate staff writer.
Aaron Wolfe is a writer, filmmaker, and obsessive fan of Tottenham Hotspur Football Club. Find him at aaron-wolfe.com.