Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby took a rare step Friday. She stood before her city and charged six city police officers for being involved in a death of the 25-year-old man who had been entrusted in their custody.
Freddie Gray, who was arrested, handcuffed, and placed in the back of a police van April 12, suffered a serious neck injury while being transported, according to Mosby. Even after he pleaded for emergency medical care, Mosby recounted officers denied him.
Around the country, reports of police brutality are rampant, from Ferguson, Missouri, to South Carolina, but often charges or even indictments of officers accused of abuses are not.
When asked what the city of Baltimore needed, Mosby promised "accountability." Then, she added, "you're getting it today."
But delivering the people of Baltimore a conviction? That is much harder to do.
Statistics show it is rare in the first place for police officers to be charged in crimes of misconduct, but convictions are far scarcer. The National Police Misconduct Statistics and Reporting Project found 8,300 instances where victims alleged mistreatment by law enforcement between April 2009 and December 2010. Of those cases, roughly 3,200 led to charges and just an eighth of all cases—1,063—led to a conviction.
Last year's video of Eric Garner being choked to death by an officer in Staten Island, New York sparked protests, but the officer was not indicted on charges by a grand jury. In Ferguson, Darren Wilson—the white cop who shot 18-year-old Michael Brown to death in 2014—also was free to go.
The numbers paint a troubling picture for the road that lies ahead in the case of Freddie Gray. Protests have continued since his death last week, and city and state officials have encouraged residents to remain calm, but now the city will enter into the next stage of this process—an arduous legal battle.
Baltimore is not unfamiliar with policy brutality. A September investigation by The Baltimore Sun revealed startling details about residents who distrust the cops who patrol their streets. Since 2011, the newspaper reported that the city of Baltimore paid out more than $5.7 million to individuals who reported they were assaulted or mistreated by police. Those only account for cases where action was taken.
The city has incurred nearly $6 million in legal fees to defend officers in court—a steep price in a city that could use the money to rebuild infrastructure and communities. Those involved in incidents ranged from a pregnant mother to 87-year-old grandmother Venus Green, who called police after she said her grandson was shot. She was thrown on a couch and against a wall, and she was handcuffed for asking an officer for a warrant before he entered her basement. She broke her shoulder in the incident; the city compensated her with $95,000.
For now, Mosby says that she needs cooperation in order to deliver justice for Freddie Gray.
"I heard your call for 'no justice, no peace,'" Mosby told the crowd Friday. "Your peace is sincerely needed as I work to deliver justice on behalf of this young man."
This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal.
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