Prosecutors have dropped all remaining charges against the three remaining Baltimore police officers (William Porter, Garrett Miller, Alicia White) accused of crimes in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray. Three other original defendants (Edward Nero, Caesar Goodson, and Brian Rice) have been found not guilty.
The Baltimore Sun describes the prosecution’s move as “startling,” and maybe it is. However, it was the only rational decision available. In the trials of the defendants most likely to have been culpable, Judge Barry Williams, has made it clear that he finds the prosecution’s theories of criminal culpability to be without merit.
The six officers still face the possibility of administrative discipline. Anything more than a slap on the wrist will further demoralize Baltimore’s police force and probably make the murder-plagued city even less safe.
We now have conclusive outcomes in the three episodes that fueled the Black Lives Matter movement. George Zimmerman, a civilian rather than a police officer, was found not guilty by a jury because he established that he killed Trayvon Martin in self defense.
Officer Darren Wilson was exonerated by the Obama Justice department. He clearly acted in self defense when he shot and killed Michael Brown.
Now, the prosecution, after suffering serial defeats in the Freddy Gray cases, has finally decided to move on. Initially, it seemed to me that the prosecution might well have a case against a few of the defendants, even though it was clear the officers had been overcharged.
This highlights the importance of not jumping to conclusions. It turned out that there was no good evidence that Gray was given a “rough ride.” I’m not talking about evidence that would satisfy the “reasonable doubt” standard. There appears to have been no real evidence at all of a rough ride, and Judge Williams gently criticized the prosecution for using the term.
The only possible case Judge Williams found against the officers was based on the failure to restrain Gray with a seat belt. But any such case would have been a civil one for negligence. The judge was clear that the officer’s decision did not amount to criminal negligence.
There is also no basis for concluding that the decision not to restrain Gray was based on race. For one thing, several of the officers who didn’t belt him are Black. For another, Gray appears to have been causing a ruckus in the van, thus making it difficult and potentially dangerous for officers to get him seat-belted.
Like the Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown cases, then, the Freddy Gray tragedy doesn’t support the Black Lives Matter movement. At most, it should have spawned a Seat Belts Matter movement.
I don’t mean to suggest that there are no cases in which police officers have killed Blacks unjustifiably. Patrolling neighborhoods in which criminality runs rampant is a nerve racking job, especially now that officers, not just residents, have been targeted for attack.
A few officers will therefore be too quick on the trigger. And in some of this very small number of cases, racial animus will be a contributing factor.
I’m not going to go President Obama’s route and say that more people die in bathtub accidents (or follow the lead of the Saul Bellow character who said, in a non-police context, “more die of heartbreak”). But it seems to me that the problem of unjustified, racially based killings by police officers doesn’t make the list of the nation’s 50 biggest concerns.
It also seems to me that those who want to portray it as a major issue are, in most cases, being extremely cynical. The most radical among them want to incite riots and assassinations. They are beginning to succeed.
Many of the remaining Black Lives Matter folks and their allies want to obscure the things that go on in Black neighborhoods that should be the main concern. I’m referring to killing by Blacks of other Blacks and, more generally, the social pathology that underlies this lawlessness.
During his contentious interview with Sheriff David Clarke, Don Lemon said “we can walk and chew gum at the same time.” He meant we can focus on both the problem of Blacks killing blacks and the almost infinitely less frequent matter (my characterization, not Lemon’s) of the racially influenced unjustified killing of Black men by police officers.
Maybe so. But among the mainstream media and the political left, we’re seeing a whole lot gum chewing and precious little walking.