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Friday, May 08, 2015

Baltimore prosecutor was elected - Attorney General Loretta Lynch has her back

Let's get this indictment right! It's the Baltimore Police Department that had Freddie Gay in custody when he suffered a fatal injury. Clearly, City Prosecutor Marilyn Mosby can't be removed from the case because she's elected. Moreover, she's not on trail.

"Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said the federal investigation was 'probably a step in the right direction'."

Not surprising, the Baltimore Police Department is enraged about how the City prosecutor Marilyn Mosby publicly indicted six officers who were implicated in the death of Freddie Gray, after he was arrested on April 12, without probable cause.

Nevertheless, the Baltimore Police Department hasn't tried to explain how Freddie Gray was alive when he was taken into custody, for apparently possessing a knife, but was essentially dead, with a broken neck, when they took him out of their van.

Now, as a result of the indictments, the Baltimore Police Department wants Marilyn Mosby to be removed as the prosecutor in the case. It's unclear how she can be removed, when her position is elected by Baltimore City voters.

Meanwhile, after Marilyn Mosby announced the indictments, the dangerous riots that were spreading throughout Baltimore City came to an end. How ironic! The riots ended just in time for the running of the world class Preakness horse race, the second event in the Triple Crown series. In fact, Maryland's Governor Larry Hogan should be sending Ms. Mosby a bouquet of Mothers Day roses for bringing the riots to an end, with the police indictments.  

Apparently, Ms. Mosby was the only city leader who seemed to hear the rally of "No justice, no peace".  Obviously, the Baltimore Police Department didn't understand how the riots would spread, unless somebody in Maryland took action. As a result of Ms. Mosby's actions, the Woodlawn Trophy can be proudly presented by Governor Hogan to the Preakness winner. Although the Governor will be smiling for the television cameras, the fact is, he wouldn't look so happy, unless Ms. Mosby  had calmed the rioting crowds, who were uncontrollably irate about Freddie Gray's death.

Thankfully, just when the Baltimore Police Department thought they might have intimidated the prosecutor Mosby, it seems the newly appointed US Attorney General Loretta Lynch has backed her actions up, at least in the investigative sense.  

Here's how Baltimore WBAL reports the investigation:

Justice Department to investigate Baltimore Police Department

The Baltimore City's Democratic mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake says she'll accept outside intervention to rebuild public trust in a city torn by riots over the death of Freddie Gray, a black man who suffered a fatal spinal injury while in police custody.

In calling for the Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation, Rawlings-Blake touted policing reforms she has been trying to make, but admitted they are not enough.

"I am asking the Department of Justice to investigate if our Police Department has engaged in a pattern or practice of stops, searches or arrests that violate the Fourth Amendment," Rawlings-Blake said.

Her request came a day after newAttorney General Loretta Lynch visited the city, 10 days after the city was marred by riots and three-and-a-half weeks after Freddie Gray was injured in police custody. The mayor says Lynch understands the urgency of her request.

"I believe the process can help repair the public's trust in the Baltimore Police Department -- even where that trust has long been broken -- by bringing about transparency, accountability and greater community understanding," Rawlings-Blake wrote in a letter to Lynch.

According to the DOJ, if the attorney general opens an investigation into the Baltimore Police Department, it would focus on seeking out any persistent patterns of misconduct, focusing on such areas as excessive force, discriminatory policing and improper stops, searches or arrests.

The DOJ released a statement shortly after the mayor's announcement, saying: "The Attorney General has received Mayor Rawlings-Blake’s request for a Civil Rights Division 'pattern or practice' investigation into the Baltimore Police Department. The Attorney General is actively considering that option in light of what she heard from law enforcement, city officials, and community, faith and youth leaders in Baltimore yesterday."

At the White House, spokesman Josh Earnest said investigating would be up to Lynch. She is "certainly eminently qualified to make this decision" as a former federal prosecutor.

"She has a very good understanding of the way that those law enforcement and prosecutorial enterprises should conduct themselves," he said.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said the federal investigation was "probably a step in the right direction."

Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-District 7, applauded the mayor's request.

"Let's not kid ourselves. This is a transformative moment, or it should be, but in order to transform the Police Department, we have to have thorough and complete information, and I think it has to be done by an independent body like Department Of Justice," he said.

Police react to mayor's request:

Baltimore City Police Commissioner Anthony Batts released a statement Thursday, saying: "We continue the work of bringing reform to every level of the Baltimore Police Department, a process we started more than two years ago. 

The Baltimore Police Department brought in new, talented and bright leaders. Experts in Internal Affairs, Equal Opportunity and training led the structural reforms of the department. A new Command Staff was put in place, chosen in part by community leaders to reflect their values. The way officers were trained, the equipment provided to them, the administrative policies and procedures (responded), outdated and antiquated systems were updated. Those were just a few of the things that were part of the transformative process. Even going so far as to change the schedule the officers worked to improve morale. There were tangible, empirical results that showed how the organization was fundamentally headed in a new direction. At the end of 2014, a 54 percent reduction in discourtesy complaints was documented, more than 40 percent reduction in excessive force complaints and a dramatic drop in lawsuits."

Nevertheless, the people have to remember that police officers are entitled to the same civil rights and due process as anyone else.

Justice Department probe under way into Gray case
Baltimore saw days of unrest after Freddie Gray was taken into custody and suffered critical injuries. He died a week later (I submit he was essentially alreaddy dead long before he was declared). 

The Justice Department is already investigating whether Freddie Gray's civil rights were violated, and it has been doing a review of some city policies since last fall, but a full-scale civil rights investigation is far more sweeping. 

Six officers are charged in Gray's arrest and death.

"I am willing to do what it takes to reform my department," Rawlings-Blake said. "At no time in our recent history has any administration brought this level of resources to reform our Police Department."

For 15 years, the Baltimore City Police Department engaged in zero-tolerance policing, sparking complaints and lawsuits. Rawlings-Blake has tried to get police to dial back the strategy.

Arrests have dropped from 110,167 in 2003 to 50,429 in 2013. 

But the types of arrests continue to be a flashpoint and a key element in the case of Gray. If they go forward, federal investigators will examine the reasons police use to take someone into custody.

The Baltimore City Police Department has been known to use arrest numbers as a measure of police performance. 

CNN reports that the Baltimore community lacks trust in law enforcement and that police must acknowledge that "we are part of the problem."

Attorney General Loretta Lynch has appeared to support prosecutor Mosby in her assessment of the harsh Baltimore police tactics. It seems like the Baltimore Police position must accommodate the DOJ investigation, rather than waste energy trying to remove Mosby as the prosecutor.

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