Mosby proposes reforms in probing police misconduct
Plan includes giving police powers to investigators for state’s attorney’s office
Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby proposed a slate of reforms Thursday for investigating and prosecuting police officers accused of misconduct, citing her failure to convict a single officer in the Freddie Gray case as her motivation.
“Equality must be a felt reality” in Baltimore, said Mosby, adding that her proposed reforms — including giving investigators in her office police powers and prosecutors the right to reject a criminal defendant’s request for a bench trial — would go a long way toward leveling the playing field between regular citizens and police officers accused of similar offenses.
Mosby said she had challenged a “long-standing protective norm” in charging the six Baltimore officers in Gray’s arrest and death, and ended up learning “hard, valuable and challenging lessons” about the need for institutional change.
Gray, 25, died a week after suffering spinal injuries in the back of a police transport van in April 2015. Three officers were acquitted of charges including misconduct in office, manslaughter and murder, and charges were dropped against the other three.
Mosby said her proposals, produced after “convening and consulting prosecutors around the country,” were aimed at “opening a dialogue about the role that prosecutors, police and community members play when citizens are seriously injured or killed during interactions with police departments.”
“Having learned the hard way through firsthand experience, when allegations of police misconduct arise, prosecutors are seen too often as protective of police and unlikely to prosecute cases of wrongdoing,” Mosby said during an announcement at Coppin State University.
The first of Mosby’s proposals calls for replacing the Police Department’s Special Investigation Response Team, which responds to all incidents in which officers use significant force, with a “collaborative investigative team” made up of a police investigator, an investigator from her office, a Maryland State Police investigator and a Civilian Review Board investigator.
Another proposal calls for the crossdesignation of federal prosecutors as potential partners in bringing state charges against police officers, while another calls for the immediate inclusion of at least two citizens on trial boards that hear officer misconduct charges at the administrative level. The latter has been a top priority of activists in Baltimore but opposed by the police union.
In response to the proposals, Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said in a statement that his department “will consider all recommendations that serve to improve our processes and enhance our reputation in the community.”
The likelihood of Mosby’s proposals being adopted or turned into law is unclear, though some would face an uphill battle in Annapolis.
Attorneys for the officers charged in the Gray case have previously bristled at Mosby’s suggestion that the outcome of the cases may have been different if federal prosecutors were in charge and could force a jury trial rather than a bench trial.
“Quite honestly, I think all of us would have welcomed the opportunity to try this case in front of a federal jury,” said Catherine Flynn, an attorney for Officer Garrett Miller, whose charges were dropped.
Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby speaks Thursday at Coppin State University about her policy reform proposals for investigating and prosecuting police misconduct.