All the cops responsible for Freddie Gray’s death have now escaped legal consequences
This is not justice.
From yesterday’s post at Rare:
You see, in our legal system, if you unintentionally kill someone, you are criminally liable. It’s called manslaughter. It’s not murder, but it’s still a crime, because there’s still a victim.
Freddie Gray should have received medical attention at the arrest site, should have only ridden about five minutes in the police van instead of 40+, should have been restrained by appropriate seat belts or other safety measures, should have—well, you get the idea.
I don’t know and can’t know whether those six officers intended to kill Gray, but it seems indisputable that they are responsible for his death in custody.
Gray didn’t confront himself. He didn’t arrest himself. He didn’t drag himself to that van or give himself a rough ride or fail to offer himself prompt medical treatment when there was something visibly wrong with his legs.
We don’t have to say these cops are monsters to concede the simple fact that they did all those things, and those things left Freddie Gray dead.
In fact, in April of this year, both Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts and Deputy Commissioner Kevin Davis admitted those six cops were medically negligent toward Gray. “No excuses for that, period,” Batts said. “We know our police employees failed to get him medical attention in a timely manner multiple times.” With a concession like that, the conclusion that any regular citizen who accosted and abused Gray the way these officers did would at least found responsible for manslaughter, probably involving criminal negligence.
In other words, any of us would be convicted for this behavior. That these six have been let off without consequences is an indictment of the double standard with which the state excuses its own malfeasance.
I’ve been paying attention to police brutality since around 2010, as best I can tell from my archive on this blog. That’s a few years longer than it’s been a major feature of national politics, but in the grand scheme of things not very long at all.
I mention that to say that as much as I think I know this topic—the numbers, the names, the stories, the videos, even the theology of it—there’s still a small part of me that thinks after many brutality stories break, “Ok, surely this is the one that convinces people. This is the one that makes it impossible to ignore how our criminal justice system so desperately needs reform. This one will go to trial and produce a conviction—because how could any judge or juror who sees what I’m seeing not recognize the injustice here?”
I thought it with Eric Garner. And Walter Scott (at least there we got an indictment). With Tamir Rice and Freddie Gray. And I confess I’m thinking it right now about Philando Castile.
So far I’ve been right 0% of the time.
It is surprising and utterly unsurprising at once. It is above all discouraging. I can only imagine what watching this cycle of death without consequence is like for people who have been aware of police brutality longer than I, especially those for whom personally encountering similar violence is more likely simply because of the color of their skin.
I have plenty of ideas for criminal justice reform, some fairly common (e.g. body cameras) and some less so (e.g. making police pay their own settlements in civil cases and requiring all cops to walk, not drive, a beat). I sincerely believe these changes can increase accountability and leave fewer people brutalized or dead.
Still, without massive cultural change—without judges and jurors who no longer default to accepting the police account of a situation—without a major overhaul of how America thinks policing should work—well, without all that there’s still a serious weak link in the process.
Reforms can make brutality incidents less frequent, but absent such a cultural shift, the pursuit of justice in criminal court will consistently break down.
That’s not to say the situation is hopeless. Public opinion can undergo and has undergone significant moves. Think about the relatively recent revolution of views on gay marriage, for example, or legal marijuana. Yet as “quick” as those changes were, they still happened on the scale of decades. Not years. Not months. Not the weeks—or sometimes days—from one police killing to the next.
I don’t know how to make that change happen. I am encouraged by the knowledge that it’s possible. But right now I’m mostly disheartened by the realization that the longer it takes, the more Freddie Grays there will be.