Michael A. Wood Jr. is the 11-year Baltimore police veteran and former U.S. marine behind a Twitter account that has drawn widespread attention since Wednesday, when he began tweeting about things he said he witnessed during his time on the force.
So far, Wood's unconfirmed allegations include that Baltimore police officers urinated and defecated on the beds of suspects during raids, faked court appearances to collect overtime and once slapped an innocent woman in the face simply for bumping into them, among other things.
A spokesperson for the Baltimore police confirmed to multiplesources this week that Wood, 35, was indeed a sergeant who left the force in 2014. The department did not specify why, but according to Wood, he retired due to a shoulder injury.
The Baltimore force did not initially address Wood's widely circulated tweets, but on Thursday, Det. Rashawn Strong sent a formal statement regarding the allegations to WBAL radio in Baltimore by email.
The full statement reads:
The recent allegations made by Mr. Michael Wood are serious and very troubling. The police commissioner has made clear that the Baltimore Police Department will never tolerate malicious conduct. We hope that during his time as both a sworn member and as a sergeant with supervisory obligations, that Mr. Wood reported these disturbing allegations at the time of their occurrence. If he did not, we strongly encourage him to do so now, so that our Internal Affairs Division can begin an immediate investigation. In a recently published letter to the Baltimore Sun, the police commissioner made clear that his reform efforts remain focused on rooting out the type of conduct that is alleged. We implore Mr. Wood or anyone else with knowledge of such acts to contact our Internal Affairs Division at 410-396-2300.
Wood, now a PhD candidate at Capella University studying business management, explained why he didn't report any of the alleged behaviour he tweeted about during an interview with the Washington Post Thursday.
"To an extent, I'm totally guilty," he said. "I should have done more. My excuse isn't a good excuse, but it's reality: You report that stuff, and you're going to get fired. I mean, of course you're going to get fired. Or they're going to make your life miserable."
"It all goes back to this whole us versus them thing. You suit up; you get out there; you're with your brothers. You're an occupying force," he continued. "Your job is to fight crime, and these are the guys you do it with. So you just don't see the abuse. It doesn't even register, because those people are the enemy."
The former officer also spoke about his reasons for attempting to expose corruption within the Baltimore police force, pointing to both his academic work and to the manyrecenthigh-profile news stories about law enforcement issues in the U.S.
"It's been a gradual progression. I got my master's degree.… It taught me to think about things differently, to evaluate information in different ways," he said. "Then I think the national discussion after Ferguson really drove it all home for me. That whole discussion was so divisive, but it was also instructive. So much of it goes back to a lack empathy. You start to see how neither side is able to see things from the other's perspective."
Wood has been tweeting prolifically since Wednesday, returning to the platform several times since his rants began to issue another set of shocking observances.
Some online have accused Wood, a published author, of solicitingpublicity through Twitter in an attempt to sell his books (one crime novel and four law enforcement textbooks, all published before 2012.)
Wood said that his book sales hadn't even been a consideration when embarking upon the social media project, noting that if anything, his tweets would likely be bad for sales of the texts, which were written for police in Maryland.
While haters are certainly present, as they are in the feed of any popular Twitter account, Wood has also amassed thousands of new fans over the past few days.
More than 15,000 people have tweeted using Wood's handle since Wednesday, and the majority of those tweets appear to be congratulatory or thankful.
Twitter users with knowledge on the subject of law enforcement, either through their professions or experiences, have also been weighing in en masse to back up Wood's statements.
According to Wood's Twitter feed, he's been doing the local media rounds in Baltimore to try to raise awareness about the state of law enforcement in the U.S.
The account also indicates that he plans to answer questions in an AMA session on Reddit in the near future.