Davis’ prob­lem

Our view: Cel­e­bra­tion of of­fi­cers in­volved in Fred­die Gray’s death un­der­scores the need for an an­swer to whether they will face dis­ci­pline

Baltimore Sun - - FROM PAGE ONE -

Over the past week or so, Bal­ti­more has wit­nessed some high-pro­file fin­ger-point­ing re­lated to the death of Fred­die Gray and the un­rest and pros­e­cu­tion that fol­lowed. One was a me­dia-en­abled dust-up be­tween Mayor Stephanie Rawl­ings Blake and Bal­ti­more City State’s At­tor­ney Mar­i­lyn Mosby with the mayor sug­gest­ing the prose­cu­tor acted rashly in an­nounc­ing charges against a half-dozen po­lice of­fi­cers — the com­ment pre­cip­i­tated by some un­flat­ter­ing thoughts con­cern­ing the mayor Ms. Mosby ex­pressed to a New York Times writer.

Less no­ticed was an equally con­tro­ver­sial event in­volv­ing at least three of the six po­lice of­fi­cers who were charged in Gray’s death. Lt. Brian Rice and Of­fi­cers Gar­rett Miller and Ed­ward Nero ap­peared at a black-tie gala in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., on Sept. 22 to be hon­ored by the Me­dia Re­search Cen­ter, the right-wing “me­dia watch­dog” founded by Brent Bozell III. Rarely have we heard of in­di­vid­u­als so re­cently on Bal­ti­more’s crim­i­nal docket treated so ex­trav­a­gantly or praised so highly. Con­ser­va­tive com­men­ta­tor De­neen Borelli called the charges filed against them the re­sult of “pol­i­tics at its very worst.”

Was there any men­tion of Gray, the 25-year-old who died in their cus­tody from a se­vere spinal cord in­jury — or the on­go­ing in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the of­fi­cers’ ac­tions and the pos­si­ble dis­ci­plinary charges they face? Such de­tails might have put a damper on the fes­tiv­i­ties, which in­cluded a stand­ing ova­tion for of­fi­cers Ms. Borelli de­scribed in heroic terms — “fight­ing for their lives, their ca­reers de­stroyed, bankrupted, hu­mil­i­ated.”

The in­ci­dent an­gered Com­mis­sioner Kevin Davis, who told WBAL-TV that he’d like to ex­plore whether ex­ist­ing reg­u­la­tions ac­tu­ally al­low of­fi­cers to at­tend such an event hosted by a “fringe group” that is “di­vi­sive” and “doesn’t speak to the val­ues of Bal­ti­more.” He didn’t men­tion it, but the Me­dia Re­search Cen­ter has cham­pi­oned such causes as lim­it­ing ac­cess to con­tra­cep­tion and railed against the broad­en­ing ac­cep­tance of non-het­ero­sex­u­als. Most re­cently, it chas­tised celebri­ties for tweet­ing crit­i­cisms of po­lice bru­tal­ity in Bal­ti­more and else­where. Mr. Bozell is of­ten re­mem­bered for his 2011 in­ter­view on Fox News dur­ing which he de­scribed Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s ap­pear­ance as that of a “skinny ghetto crack­head.”

But try­ing to po­lice who cops can as­so­ci­ate with on their off hours isn’t Com­mis­sioner Davis’ big prob­lem here. It’s that the six Fred­die Gray of­fi­cers are — no doubt to his cha­grin — fail­ing to sim­ply dis­ap­pear. We can’t imag­ine, un­der the cir­cum­stances, that they will ever re­turn to pa­trolling the streets of Bal­ti­more, but Po­lice Com­mis­sioner Kevin Davis ex­pressed out­rage when of­fi­cers in­volved in Fred­die Gray’s ar­rest were hon­ored at a black tie gala. they’re still out there, col­lect­ing pay­checks from the city, while in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions drag on. The fact that three of them were feted so shame­fully only serves as a re­minder that, nearly 18 months af­ter Fred­die Gray died and two months af­ter Ms. Mosby dropped all charges against the of­fi­cers, the Po­lice Depart­ment has failed to de­ter­mine whether they should face any dis­ci­pline. What more they could be in­ves­ti­gat­ing, at this point, we can’t fathom.

We’ll grant that Mr. Davis is in a tricky spot. He’s try­ing to help ne­go­ti­ate a con­sent de­cree with the Depart­ment of Jus­tice, which doc­u­mented be­yond ques­tion that the cal­lous treat­ment Gray re­ceived at the hands of of­fi­cers was trag­i­cally com­mon­place, and he’s walk­ing a fine line be­tween main­tain­ing the sup­port of the rank-and-file and show­ing em­pa­thy for the com­mu­nity’s com­plaints of mis­treat­ment.

But at some point he needs to an­swer whether the ac­tions of those six of­fi­cers vi­o­lated his depart­ment’s stan­dards. Find­ing a quiet way for them to leave won’t cut it. What­ever Mr. Davis de­cides, it’s go­ing to be un­pop­u­lar with some­one — ei­ther with the Fra­ter­nal Or­der of Po­lice or with the many Bal­ti­more res­i­dents who be­lieve jus­tice has yet to be done in this case. But as the re­cent turn in the spot­light by Messrs. Rice, Miller and Nero made clear, this prob­lem isn’t go­ing away. Mr. Davis needs to bring the dis­ci­plinary process to a con­clu­sion, and soon. Un­til he does, the depart­ment will never be able to fully move on.


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