Sunday, April 18, 2021

The Journal of Steffanie Rivers: The City That Cried Wolf

steffanie rivers
Steffanie Rivers

*If there’s one thing I hate worse than seeing videos of overzealous police officers killing, shooting and using unwarranted force against unarmed citizens who pose no threat, it’s witnessing those officers get acquitted by the same people who are most likely to be the target of their aggression.

Two Baltimore City police officers, Caesar Goodson and Edward Nero were found not guilty in the death of Freddie Gray. Gray suffered a broken spine during the rough ride to jail in the back of the police van after what was later determined to be a false arrest. The trial of the first cop William Porter, ended in a hung jury, even though Porter admitted in court that he did not follow police procedure which required Gray to be secured with a seat belt while being transported. Three other police officers are scheduled to stand trial later this year.

Baltimore held the international spotlight for weeks in the spring of 2015 after residents there protested and rioted over the mistreatment and death of Gray while in police custody. Gray’s death was just one of a string of police brutality incidents that plagued that police department and led to millions of dollars in settlements paid to Baltimore residents.

But after all the civil disorder, demands for justice and police indictments following Gray’s death, mostly black jurors – in three separate trials – allowed the accused to walk away without jail time.

It’s not looking good for the prosecution of the remaining three officers. Some say two acquittals and a mistrial are proof that state’s attorney Marilyn Mosby never should have indicted the officers. I disagree. Everybody who played a role – from Gray’s false arrest to the van driver who ignored Gray’s pleas for medical assistance – should be held accountable for his death. Mosby did her part, but she can’t play the role of the judge and the jury too.

Residents, who are chosen as jurors, represent the racial makeup of their city. With the well-documented issue of police brutality against people of color in Baltimore, and officer Porter’s admission that he failed to follow police procedure to buckle Gray’s seatbelt during the van ride – reckless disregard for Gray’s life – that should have been enough for a manslaughter conviction. If jurors can’t agree on the conviction of an officer who admitted under oath that his actions were negligent, what’s the point of being on the jury. These jurors are like the boy who cried wolf; they woke up the world with demands for help in getting justice, but turned their back on justice when it was within their grasp to get it. Americans across the country did their part to speak against police brutality to show support for Baltimore residents. If this is the thanks we get for speaking up on your behalf, next time don’t bother the rest of the world.

Baltimore has three more chances to deliver justice, not just for Gray and other residents there, but to say to police around the United States that black lives matter the same as anybody else’s and the mistreatment must stop! It’s hard enough to get an indictment in these cases. So far, Baltimore has shown rogue police officers even when indicted, they can get away with murder.

Steffanie is a freelance journalist living in the Dallas, Texas metroplex. Email her at info@SteffanieRivers.com for comments, questions and speaking inquiries.

 

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