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Coughing took took on a new, hostile significance in the middle of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Case in point: police in Baltimore, Maryland are investigating after one of their own officers was seen on video apparently coughing on purpose near people at a housing complex.
You can see the footage above. A woman recording the officer seems to address him as “Officer Friendly, with the cherry cheeks.” The cop coughs near her and continued to do so when passing at least two other people. The allegedly intentional actions of the officer led to some racial rancor, per the recording.
“I ain’t worried about that shit,” the narrator said. “Y’all get that shit. Black people don’t. Cough your white ass back where you live at. Fuck outta here.”
The officer was white.
This encounter reportedly happened at the Perkins Homes housing complex.
It’s all but impossible to treat the outbreak as distinct from race. Reports of hate crimes can be coupled with initial data which shows the virus has disproportionately infected and killed black and Hispanic people (at least in New York).
“The Department takes COVID-19 very seriously and we do not condone any action by our members which may be perceived as making light of the COVID-19 pandemic,” cops said in a statement reported by NBC News. “A complete investigation will be conducted and the Department hopes that all of its members and the public will continue to work together with respect as we maneuver forward during this challenging time.”
The incident simply touches on another fault-line: the way law enforcement interacts with people, especially the poor and people of color.
“Fuck wrong with him?” the narrator said in the video. “Tell him n*****s don’t get that shit. They the ones get that shit.”
More heckling ensues.
“I should call the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] on his ass, and let him know he just did some dirty ass shit like that. Fuck wrong with him. He’s going to walk pass coughing and shit, stupid bitch. You ain’t going to affect nobody but your coworkers. Fuck outta here.”
Baltimore City Council President Brandon M. Scott said he forwarded video of the incident to Police Commissioner Michael Harrison.
“When you’re in public service, it’s your duty to treat everyone with respect, especially when we are dealing with both a public health pandemic and a gun violence epidemic,” he wrote on Twitter. “This is not behavior that we want our police officers or any of our public servants to model to residents.”
For citizens, this means adhering to the advice of public health professionals while following government guidelines issued to save lives.
I will be following up with the Commissioner regarding this disturbing incident.
— Brandon M. Scott (@CouncilPresBMS) April 7, 2020
[Screengrab via Baller Alert]
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