Mitchell: How to stop police brutality

SHARE Mitchell: How to stop police brutality
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Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby announces that criminal charges will be filed against Baltimore police officers in the death of Freddie Gray on Friday Getty Images

Baltimore stunned the world for a second time in a week when the city’s top prosecutor announced charges Friday against six police officers involved in the Freddie Gray arrest.

This is how you stop police brutality.

You don’t first pay off the victim or, in the case of a fatality, the family of the victim. You don’t let complaints pile up on an investigator’s desk until public interest wanes.

And you certainly don’t do what Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy did after police officer Dante Servin went free.

In 2012, Servin allegedly fired an unregistered gun into a crowd and fatally wounded Rekia Boyd. It took more than a year for Servin to be indicted. Last month, a legal technicality let Servin off the hook.

In a shocking display of insensitivity, McCarthy told the Chicago Sun-Times that Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez should never have indicted Servin in the first place.

“It was wrong,” McCarthy said. ” The judge did the right thing by issuing a directed verdict.

“What you didn’t know is the defense and all the intricate details of that particular event. . . . If the details of that case were known, I think it would be a lot clearer why no charges were warranted,” McCarthy said in a subsequent interview.

Baltimore’s top prosecutor showed Chicago and the rest of America what ought to happen in controversial police-involved deaths. Marilyn J. Mosby said investigators worked “around the clock” trying to get to the bottom of Gray’s death.

“No one is above the law,” said Mosby, the youngest person elected state’s attorney in Baltimore.

The six police officers, including the driver of the van, have now been charged with second-degree murder, manslaughter, false imprisonment and misconduct.

Mosby also accused the police officers of making an illegal arrest, saying the knife that Gray was carrying was legal and not a “switchblade.”

“I heard your call for ‘no justice, no peace.’ Your peace is sincerely needed as I work to deliver justice on behalf of this young man,” she told a cheering crowd.

Gray suffered unexplained spinal injuries while he was in a police transport van and died seven days later.

“I was sickened and heartbroken by the statement of charges,” Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said. “No one is above the law. Justice must be applied to all of us.

“I will continue to be relentless in changing the culture of brutality in the Baltimore Police Department to ensure that everyone in our city is treated equally under the law,” she said.

In January, Rawlings-Blake told President Barack Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing that, while crime had dropped in her city, the problem of police misconduct continues to overshadow improvements,” the Baltimore Sun reported.

Not surprisingly, that city’s police union immediately accused prosecutors of “rushing to judgment.”

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Freddie Gray’s stepfather Richard Shipley, left, sits with Fredricka Gray during a press availability Friday in Baltimore. State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby announced criminal charges against all six officers suspended after Freddie Gray suffered a fatal spinal injury while in police custody in Baltimore. AP photo

And police advocates suggested that the mayor was trying to ward off further violent protests in Baltimore.

But Rawlings-Blake has shown she is capable of handling unruly protesters. When rioters and looters took over some of the city’s most vulnerable neighborhoods last week, Rawlings-Blake swiftly instituted a curfew and asked Maryland’s governor to call up the National Guard.

I don’t know whether it’s a woman’s heart or something else, but while other officials in this situation seem to dawdle, Rawlings-Blake and Mosby moved with deliberate speed.

Frankly, a lot of people are losing confidence in the criminal justice system’s ability to treat all citizens fairly. There was a time the public would have been unaffected by what happened to Gray.

But since cases like those of Eric Garner in New York and the fatal police-involved shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, have been publicly dissected, more people are unwilling to remain silent on this issue.

It’s up to the criminal justice system to judge this case fairly, and it’s up to protesters to give that system a chance to do its job.

“We know the vast majority of the men and women in the Baltimore City Police Department serve the city with pride, with courage, with honor and with distinction,” Rawlings-Blake said.

“But to those of you who wish to engage in brutality, misconduct, racism and corruption, there is no place in the Baltimore City Police Department for you.”


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