Baltimore's Far From Done Despite Collapse of Criminal Case

BALTIMORE (AP) — Many of this city’s deepest challenges remain unresolved after the collapse of the criminal case against six police officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray, the young black man whose broken neck in police custody caused so much upheaval. Here’s a look at the to-do lists of those involved.


The young Baltimore prosecutor who commanded national attention by swiftly filing murder and manslaughter charges against the officers involved in Gray’s arrest was unrepentant as she closed the case without convictions this week. While even some of her allies called the evidence thin, she accused law enforcement colleagues of thwarting the prosecution, and rhetorically indicted the nation’s criminal justice system as incapable of holding police accountable. “The prosecution of on-duty police officers in this country is surprisingly rare and blatantly wrought with systemic and inherent complications,” she said. The statement thrilled some activists but could complicate her ability to work with police on resolving the city’s soaring homicide rate.


Stepping in as top cop after Anthony Batts was fired for his handling of the unrest provoked by Gray’s death, Commissioner Kevin Davis pledged to implement significant reforms while remaining loyal to the officers he commands. Davis overhauled the department’s 2003 policy on use of force to include de-escalation tactics and emphasize “the sanctity of life.” Davis also implemented software insuring that officers get quizzed on their responsibilities, such as buckling prisoners into seatbelts. The prosecutions failed in part because they couldn’t prove the officers even read their department’s rules. In response to Mosby’s accusations, Davis said Gray’s death stirred many emotions and opinions, but “we are not entitled to our own facts.” Still, he said, “we will continue to work together. That’s what we do.”


Equally crucial to policing’s future in Baltimore, the union has been steadfast in its support for the officers charged as well as its disdain for Mosby. Union President Gene Ryan has repeatedly accused her of “malicious prosecution.” Pushing back against reforms designed to provide citizens with more oversight, the union also has sued to block a civilian review board from having access to police disciplinary records. That would thwart the spirit of legislative reforms to the Law Enforcement Officers Bill Of Rights, which enable chiefs to add citizens to boards that review cases against officers.


The Black Lives Matter movement made Gray’s death a rallying cry, and Baltimore’s activists took to the streets by the thousands last year. Heartbroken by the outcome of the criminal cases, some advocates for police reform say new avenues of protest are necessary. Adam Jackson, a co-founder of Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, is part of a coalition that occupied a vacant home, renamed it the Harriet Tubman House and transformed it into a community center across the street from the spot where Gray was put in the back of the police van. “People are fed up with the quick roll-in-the-streets protests,” Jackson said. “People want to focus on what they can do. We’re less concerned with the spectacle than what we can do to change the structures.”


Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake abandoned her bid for re-election amid searing criticism following the rioting and unrest, but she was back in the spotlight this week where she got the honor of tallying the votes at the Democratic National Convention. Responding there to the end of the criminal cases, she chided Mosby for claiming the justice system is rigged and said elected officials must work within the system to bring reform. She cited her efforts to make prosecuting police easier by changing the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights. The mayor also has championed body cameras, and all officers who work the streets will soon wear them.


The city preemptively gave Gray’s family a $6.4 million settlement — more money than all payouts to victims of police abuse in Baltimore in the previous four years combined. During tense moments since then, the family has urged protesters to remain peaceful, asserting their faith in the prosecution. Gray’s stepfather Richard Shipley pledged his continued support for Mosby despite the collapse of the cases, and vowed to advocate for police reforms. “We’re disappointed in the outcome of the trials, but we’re going to continue to be fighters for Freddie,” Shipley said. “We are going to see that new legislation is carried out, new laws that will help this community and other communities. We’re grateful that he didn’t die in vain.”

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