BY MARK PUENTE
AND MEREDITH COHN
THE BALTIMORE SUN/TNS
When Baltimore State’s Attorney Maryliyn Mosby charged six police officers in the death of Freddie Gray, she said they had ignored Gray’s pleas for medical care during his arrest and a 45-minute transport van ride.
Records obtained by The Baltimore Sun show that city police often disregard or are oblivious to injuries and illnesses among people they apprehend — in fact, such cases occur by the thousands.
From June 2012 through April 2015, correctional officers at the Baltimore City Detention Center have refused to admit nearly 2,600 detainees who were in police custody, according to state records obtained through a Maryland Public Information Act request.
In those records, intake officers in Central Booking noted a wide variety of injuries, including fractured bones, facial trauma and hypertension. Of the detainees denied entry, 123 had visible head injuries, the third most common medical problem cited by jail officials, records show.
The jail records redacted the names of detainees, but a Sun investigation found similar problems among Baltimore residents and others who have made allegations of police brutality.
Officers don’t care
Salahudeen Abdul-Aziz, who was awarded $170,000 by a jury in 2011, testified that he was arrested and transported to the Western District after being beaten by police and left with a broken nose, facial fracture and other injuries. Hours later, he went to Central Booking and then to Bon Secours Hospital, according to court records.
Abdul-Aziz recently said that jailers at Central Booking “wouldn’t let me in the door as soon as they saw my face. … I thought I was gonna die that day. Freddie Gray wasn’t so lucky.”
Some critics say the data from the state-run jail show that city officers don’t care about the condition of detainees.
“It goes to demonstrate the callous indifference the officers show when they are involved with the public,” said attorney A. Dwight Pettit, who has sued dozens of city officers in the past 40 years. “Why would they render medical care when they rendered many of the injuries on the people?”
Lack of training
Criminologists and law enforcement experts say Gray’s death shows that police lack adequate training to detect injuries. Many suspects fake injuries in an effort to avoid a jail cell, they add.
“The curriculum has been generally the same for the past 20-30 years at the [police] academy,” said Hamin Shabazz, chair of the Department of Criminal Justice at Stevenson University and a former police officer in Camden, N.J. He served on the panel that reviewed the death of Tyrone West, who died from a heart condition made worse by a struggle with officers during a traffic stop amid summer heat in 2012.
Officers, Shabazz said, “do get some in-service training, but what happens is training is usually reactive, after something has happened.”
The Sun’s examination of more than 100 lawsuits against officers — in which the city paid more than $6 million in court judgments and settlements — found that dozens of residents accused police of inflicting severe injuries during questionable arrests and disregarding appeals for medical attention.
Such problems have damaged relations between police and residents, according to officials and community leaders.
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch has announced a broad civil rights investigation into the police department, a move designed to address the “serious erosion of public trust.”
Baltimore police did not respond to several requests for comment.
Baltimore Sun newsroom data developer Patrick Maynard contributed to this article.