Pittsburgh Accord & Baltimore Crack-up

Member Group : Reflections

The father’s comment was concise and generous of spirit, said at a time of severe personal pain, the day after the acquittal of Michael Rosfeld, the former East Pittsburgh police officer who shot and killed his son, 17-year-old Antwon Rose II, last June in a burst of three shots in less than one second.

“I want peace. Period,” said Antwon Rose Sr.

At a time of growing street protests and criticism of the not guilty verdict, Rose said he would continue to advocate for changes in Pennsylvania’s law regarding the situations for permissible uses of deadly force by police officers, as he called for unity and calm in the city.

“We’ve got a great city,” he said, “and I would urge us to bring all the communities back together again.”

The benefit to the community of Mr. Rose’s practicality and recognition of the character and well-being of the city, plus the merit and timeliness of his appeal for communities to pull together was clearly on display, compared to the more destructive, divided and deadly scenario that developed in Baltimore following the fatal injuries of a young black man in police custody in 2015, as reported in the cover story in The New York Times Magazine on March 17, 2019, “The Tragedy of Baltimore. How an American City Falls Apart.”

In both cities, last year in Pittsburgh with the shooting of Antwon Rose and in Baltimore in 2015 with the fatal injuries to Freddie Gray, 25, public attention was focused on the deadly interaction of a young black male with the police. In both cases, the initial decision of the young men being detained was to run from the apprehending officer.

In Baltimore, 25-year-old Freddie Gray, arrested for possessing what police claimed was an illegal knife (later classified as a legal knife by State’s Attorney for Baltimore Marilyn J. Mosby, the city’s top prosecutor), died a few days following his arrest after receiving critical injuries to his neck and spinal cord while being transported in the back of a Baltimore police van to a police station.

“When the Baltimore man was arrested, he was alive and well,” reported David Graham in The Atlantic, April 22, 2015. “By the time he reached the police station, he couldn’t breathe or talk.”

Gray suffered a “catastrophic and complete spinal cord injury with paralysis,” testified neurosurgeon Dr. Matthew Ammerman, saying Gray’s injury wasn’t survivable, even with the best medical care.

Dr. Carol Allan, who conducted Gray’s autopsy, stated that Gray’s spiral cord was “functionally cut through.” Additionally, Allan reported that Gray died of a “neck injury,” which she ruled a homicide.

And now, after Gray’s death, the street clashes, the city’s agreement with a “consent decree” that authorizes the federal government to regulate how police officers can interact with the public, $14 million in state spending responding to the city’s riots, a police pullback by means of refusing to undertake officer-initiated policing, 130 police officers injured, habitual vandalizing of police cruisers, the result is that Baltimore now has the highest per-capita murder rate in its history, a far higher homicide rate than any other city in the United States of 500,000 or more residents.

Ralph R. Reiland is Associate Professor Emeritus of Economics at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh. His e-mail: [email protected].


R. R. Reiland
5623 Baptist Road
Pittsburgh, Pa. 15236