A key witness in a case against two Baltimore City police officers is the target of an incident involving a dead rat left on the windshield of his car, harassment, and personal threats.
The witness is himself a Baltimore city police officer. He was the whistle-blower providing key testimony against Sgt. Marinos Gialamas and Officer Anthony Williams, who told jurors what really happened, he said, after a drug suspect was caught.
According to prosecutors, the sergeant and officer took the drug suspect out of a police van after he had been arrested, and then assaulted him inside a house on Prentiss Place in east Baltimore. The house belonged to the girlfriend of Williams, who showed up off-duty and took part in the assault. The key witness in the case, Officer Joe Crystal, was also on the scene that night.
Crystal told the county officer that "officers within the Baltimore City Police Department are not happy with him ... think he is the person responsible for talking to the State's Attorney's Office."
The rat incident happened just after Gialamas and Williams were indicted in 2012.
Crystal was then labeled a snitch and targeted by others in the department, including 4 different supervisors.
According to WBAL-TV, Crystal didn't keep quiet. He became a witness in the investigation of Gialamas and Williams, and word apparently spread fast.
"I remember a sergeant drawing pictures of cheese on Post-Its and writing 'Crystal is cheese' and telling me that people are saying I snitched on Sgt. Gialamas," Crystal said.
Crystal kept a private journal detailing the taunting and harassment that he said came from four different supervisors and other officers.
"The detective pulls up and says, 'Hey, are you guys having a cheese party?'" Crystal said. "I didn't want any problems, and he said, 'What? I'm just asking whether you are having a cheese party. I know rats like cheese.'"
Crystal said he missed out on a new assignment to a different squad. He said a lieutenant told him why: "I have done big enough cases, good enough cases. For all intents and purposes, I should go to the squad, but it was perceived that I snitched on Sgt. Gialamas, and since I snitched on Sgt. Gialamas, I couldn't go. To be on that squad, you had to do things in the gray area, and this was going to follow me for my entire career."
The workplace wasn’t the only place the corrupt cops targeted Crystal.
Crystal said the pressure mounted, and a sergeant called him at home.
"I was home with my wife, and he started screaming at me, telling me Gialamas is saying I am snitching and I am the star witness," Crystal said. "The punch line of it all: 'You better pray to God you're not the star witness.' He said it multiple times. When I hung up the phone, I said to my wife, 'I think he basically just threatened me.'"
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Also, according to Crystal, the department tried to set him up. A few days after the phone call at his home he was asked by a supervisor to change the date on a police voucher.
"When that happened, I was in panic mode because what I had believed was he wanted me to falsify these documents, and then he was going to be charged with falsifying a report or something like that," Crystal said.
The four cops accused of the harassment remain in the same job or better.
This example of police ostracizing their own for calling out corruption is hardly isolated, as we’ve pointed out in the past, cops that report other cops are harassed.
It should however, come as no surprise that the “blue curtain” works both ways. It serves as a protection against claims from civilians for abuse while simultaneously serving as venue of ridicule and shame for the actual good cops who try and expose corruption in their departments.
With this type of standard in the institution of law enforcement it is no wonder that brutality, corruption, and abuse are rife throughout the system.
The precedent is being set that when the good one’s stand up, they are quickly silenced.
What then should be done to stop this cycle of corruption and abuse? We must look at the root of the problem. No change will come as long as there exists a monopoly on the service of police.
No matter how many bad apples are caught and removed, the institution remains as an unaccountable, unlimited funded behemoth, hell bent on self-preservation and expansion.
We do not need a monopoly on the use of force also known as police, we can do without them. It is time to imagine a post police world.
Here is one of many possible solutions to this problem. The Peacekeeper app.
As we become more interconnected in our own communities and turn to peaceful, bottom-up mechanisms, the claim that a coercive, top-down monopoly can best supply safety and security will be delegitimized and with it, the bad idea of the "state."
Peacekeeper is only the beginning however. The beauty of the free market is that it allows competing ideas. Those with the best results will rise to the top.
We can win, we just need to build a competing system, outside of the current, that will eventually expose their timeworn and decrepit institution as the failure it has become.
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