Baltimore Burning

According to the U.S. Government Census of 2014, 63.3% of Baltimore is black or African-American alone, 31.6% is white alone, 4.6% is Hispanic or Latino alone, and then there’s the rest.  In other words, the facts are that Baltimore is predominantly a black or African-American city.

The mayor of Baltimore is African-American.  The Baltimore police department is administered by Commissioner Anthony Batts who is African-American, and Deputy Commissioner of Patrol Garnell Green, who is also African-American.  The state attorney is African-American.  In other words, those who are in positions of power are African-American, not white.

Of the six members who make up the Baltimore City Senate Delegation that represents Baltimore’s interest in the Maryland General Assembly, four of them (66.7%) are African-American.

When the mayor of Baltimore hired the Police Commissioner, she stated to the Baltimore Sun that with the hiring of Anthony Batts in 2012, the city would become “the safest big city in America.”  One of the first things Anthony Batts did was to disband the Violent Crimes Impact Section that December, and to create the Special Enforcement Section.

According to the Washington Post who quoted Census data, in the Baltimore police department, 46% of police officers are white.  And according to information from former Massachusetts governor (and former Baltimore mayor) Martin O’Malley, when he left office in January 2015, 43% of police officers in Baltimore were African-American (it’s doubtful that the percentage has dropped significantly between the end of January and the end of April when the Freddie Gray incident took place).

Of the six officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray, three are African-American:  Caesar Goodson Jr. (who drove the police van), William Porter, and Alicia White.  And of the six officers charged, the three who are African-American face the most serious charges as determined by the state attorney.  The charges, along with the maximum sentence for each charge, are as follows:

Officer Caesar R. Goodson Jr.

Second degree depraved heart murder – 30 years
Manslaughter (involuntary) – 10 years
Assault (2nd degree) – 10 years
Manslaughter by vehicle (gross negligence) – 10 years
Misconduct in office (8th Amendment)

Officer William G. Porter

Manslaughter (involuntary) – 10 years
Assault (2nd degree) – 10 years
Misconduct in office (8th Amendment)

Lt. Brian W. Rice

Manslaughter (involuntary) – 10 years
Assault (2nd degree) – 10 years
Assault (2nd degree) – 10 years
Misconduct in office (8th Amendment)
False Imprisonment (8th Amendment)

Officer Edward M. Nero

Assault (2nd degree) – 10 years
Assault (2nd degree) – 10 years
Misconduct in office (8th Amendment)
False Imprisonment (8th Amendment)

Officer Garrett E. Miller

Assault (2nd degree) – 10 years
Misconduct in office (8th Amendment)
False Imprisonment (8th Amendment)

Sgt. Alicia D. White

Manslaughter (involuntary) – 10 years
Assault (2nd degree) – 10 years
Misconduct in office (8th Amendment)

For those of you who are unclear as to what the charge of depraved-heart murder means, this charge allows prosecutors to charge Caesar R. Goodson Jr. with murder without having to prove that the intent was to kill Freddie Gray.  The charge means that prosecutors only have to prove that the officer knowingly did something that he either knew, or should have known, was likely to kill Freddie Gray, and that he showed “extreme indifference” to the possibility of harm to Freddie Gray.

Does this excuse what happened to Freddie Gray while he was in custody?  Of course, it doesn’t.

What it does is to underscore that the claims by rioters, vandals, looters, and activists that his death was an act of racism means that African-Americans are out to get other African-Americans.  There is social media fueled outrage that only serves to inflame the situation and not to arrive at the facts and move through those facts to create solutions to the problems that create these powder keg situations in the first place.

At one point last week, two weeks into the rioting, 98 police officers had reported injuries, with 43 requiring emergency treatment.  Thirteen were out on medical leave, fifteen returned to light duty, and the remaining fifteen returned to full duty after treatment.

There were reports that another prisoner sharing the police van with Freddie Gray, but separated from him by a metal partition, believed that the noises he heard on the other side of that wall was that of Freddie Gray trying to intentionally hurt himself.  Keep in mind that this is what the other prisoner thought was going on, and has not been proven or disproven.

There were reports that Freddie Gray was unarmed, and other reports that Freddie Gray was armed with a spring-loaded switch blade.

But regardless of whether Freddie Gray injured himself, and whether he did or didn’t have a spring-loaded switch blade when apprehended by the police (after being chased through a West Baltimore housing project), the fact of the matter remains that Freddie Gray did not receive proper medical attention that may have saved his life.

And even though State Attorney Marilyn Mosby has claimed there is systemic racism against African-Americans, the fact of the matter is that this isn’t really about racism.  It’s about whether police brutality is rampant in certain police forces.  It’s about whether some police officers are abusing their position as police officers, and causing harm to the community they have sworn to serve and protect.

The Baltimore police officers union has asked that a special arm’s length independent prosecutor be appointed to the investigation.

In the end, we may never know what really happened to Freddie Gray.  Rather than polarizing this into a race war, isn’t it time Baltimore pulled together and made this about rooting out those on the police force and in the community whose focus is on dividing the city into war zones?

Elyse Bruce

SUGGESTED READING

Attorney General Expected To Announce Civil Rights Investigation Into Baltimore Police
https://gma.yahoo.com/attorney-general-expected-announce-civil-rights-investigation-baltimore-025833751–abc-news-topstories.html

Baltimore Celebrates After Police Charged In Black Man’s Death
http://news.yahoo.com/baltimore-celebrates-police-charged-black-mans-death-180819847.html

Baltimore Police Commissioner: There Is A Sense Of Rage And Rightly So
http://www.wcnc.com/story/news/nation/2015/05/01/baltimore-police-commissioner/26685431/

Baltimore Probe Into Black Man’s Death Fails To Support Charges
http://news.yahoo.com/baltimore-probe-black-mans-death-fails-support-charges-165020584.html

Baltimore Protesters March Again After Police File Gray Report
http://www.wcnc.com/story/news/nation/2015/04/30/baltimore-freddie-gray-police-van-protests-injured/26623821/

Curfew Law Very Egregious
http://news.yahoo.com/latest-police-custody-death-6-officers-charged-150534486.html

Freddie Gray Death: Baltimore Mayor Says She Is Sickened And Heartbroken
http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/baltimore-unrest/freddie-gray-death-mayor-says-she-sickened-heartbroken-n352056

Freddie Gray’s Death Ruled A Homicide: Six Baltimore Officers Charged
http://news.yahoo.com/freddie-gray-sustained-fatal-head-injury-in-back-of-police-van–report-124521845.html

Prisoner In Van Thought Gray Was Trying To Injure Himself
http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/crime/prisoner-in-van-said-freddie-gray-was-banging-against-the-walls-during-ride/2015/04/29/56d7da10-eec6-11e4-8666-a1d756d0218e_story.html

Prosecutor Charges 6 Baltimore Officers With Freddie Gray’s Death
http://cbs12.com/news/top-stories/stories/medical-examiner-freddie-grays-death-ruled-homicide-25455.shtml

Protesters Clash With Police In Philadelphia
http://www.cbsnews.com/news/freddie-gray-protesters-clash-police-philadelphia/

What Is Depraved Heart Murder?
http://www.wcnc.com/story/news/2015/05/01/maryland-depraved-heart-murder-charge/26716749/

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