“This is my house.” It was the statement 18-year-old Tionne Jones made while standing in the doorway of his home in the 1800 block of Barclay St. in the Greenmount West neighborhood. He made it last Saturday to a Baltimore City police lieutenant who asked to talk to the property owner. When Tionne told the officer he could not come in because he didn’t have a warrant, the situation escalated quickly.
In a video uploaded over the weekend, the officer, with one hand on the inside of the door jamb, can be heard requesting additional help. Others in the house try to explain that the property owner, Tionne’s mother, is at work, but that they are residents. Moments later, sirens are heard approaching, then another squad car arrives, lights flashing. Within seconds, an officer emerges from the driver’s side and pulls the teen from the doorway onto the sidewalk, where he was quickly surrounded by 3-4 additional police officers.
The video, which runs just over three minutes, ends with one of the residents trying to explain to another officer what happened. Tionne can be seen in the background, sitting with his hands behind his back, leaning against his brick rowhouse.
Tara Andrews Huffman, director of OSI’s Criminal and Juvenile Justice Program, says that while we don’t have a recording of the incident from beginning to end, at no point in the clip do we see any of the officers attempt to de-escalate the situation.
“According to a survey by the Police Executive Research Forum of 281 police agencies across the nation,” said Huffman, “the average officer receives 58 hours of firearms training and 49 hours of defensive tactical training, but only eight hours of de-escalation training. This is clearly a weakness within BPD, one that Commissioner Davis has acknowledged.”
Baltimore police have since dropped the charges against him, two days after the video surfaced. Marylyn Mosby’s office agreed. The actions of a city officer and a lieutenant are being internally investigated.
What can be seen in this video illustrates a stance by Baltimore police that suggests the department continues to struggle with the idea of fair policing, a stance OSI and our Criminal and Juvenile Justice program strongly supports. When the very act of young black men asserting their constitutional rights continues to trigger aggressive responses from law enforcement we will never achieve true community safety, and communities of color will never have reason to trust the police.
OSI’s Criminal and Juvenile Justice Program seeks to promote justice systems that are fair and equitable and we encourage the BPD to continually work toward that end.
Screen grab of Antonio McLaurin’s video courtesy of Fox 45 News Baltimore.