Crime in Baltimore is a towering story these days. The homicide count in May was 43, the highest in nearly 40 years. Arrests, meanwhile, have dropped through the floor, a situation that some attribute to a reaction to the charges against six Baltimore police officers involved in the Freddie Gray episode, which were announced May 1 by Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby.
Baltimore City Fraternal Order of Police President Gene Ryan has spoken forcefully on behalf of his rank and file: “The criminals are taking advantage of the situation in Baltimore since the unrest. Criminals feel empowered now. There is no respect. Police are under siege in every quarter. They are more afraid of going to jail for doing their jobs properly than they are of getting shot on duty,” he said in a statement.
So there you have it: A union official speaking clearly on the record, ripping the authorities for their decision to go after Baltimore police officers in the Gray case. Why, then, do cable news outlets feel so compelled to haul in Baltimore cops, shroud them in darkness and alter their voices — just to have them deliver the same message?
Witness last night’s edition of “Hannity” on Fox News, in which host Sean Hannity asked an unnamed and unidentifiable Baltimore City police officer about the relationship between the force and Mosby (among other things). “We heard her comment that she has a close relationship with the police department,” said the cop. “I just shake my head and say you have to just wonder if she’s living in West Baltimore or the moon, because the moment she stepped into office, the relationship with the department was bad as it was, has only gotten 50 times worse since she unjustly indicted these officers.” The police officer offered other opinions, too, about the Gray autopsy report and whether the city’s crime problems would persist.
CNN’s Brooke Baldwin earlier in the week aired a bunch of segments with two Baltimore police officers in the dark. About all you need to know about these exchanges is in the headline on the CNN page promoting the interview: “Baltimore officer: Mayor doesn’t have our backs.”
Here’s one of the exchanges:
Baldwin: “And your biggest fear isn’t getting shot these days, it’s getting hauled off to jail. Is that accurate?”
In recent weeks, journos have been questioning the value of “background” interviews with high-flying but anonymous officials who frame the position of a presidential campaign or the White House or whatever. Why not put those folks on a cable-news set with hoods and shadows and voice alterations? It would make the point even more stark that anonymous spinning is the media’s way of filling space and air time.