On Oct. 20, Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby introduced a set of proposed policy reform proposals for investigating and prosecuting police misconduct. While Baltimore City Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said the department would study the proposals before making on a decision, the Fraternal Order of Police swiftly condemned the proposed changes.
In response Mosby issued a vigorous defense of her proposals in an interview with the AFRO.
The proposals, in short, would make it more difficult for defendants to receive a bench trial instead of a jury trial, something some of the officers in the Freddie Gray case did effectively. In addition, members of Mosby’s office would be given police powers, the number of civilians on the police hearing boards be increased and the police department’s Special Investigative Response Team, which responds to use of force of incidents, would be replaced by a new group made up of a Civilian Review Board investigator, a Maryland State Police Investigator a SAO Investigator as well a BCPD Investigator.
“What I think we’ve done for far too long is maintain the status quo and what we’ve been able to do following the Freddie Gray case, where we applied justice fairly and equally to everybody and we had accountability, that accountability lead to exposure. We then saw how deeply engrained the discriminatory policing practices in Baltimore City were and now after that exposure it’s time to talk about reform,” Mosby told the AFRO. “So I know a lot of people are criticizing these proposals and have so much to say but it’s really an attempt to have a dialogue. These are suggestions and proposals that people are doing across the country and some of them are creative to create a second layer of transparency, so that we can rebuild the trust among communities and law enforcement. But at the end of the day the goal was to have this dialogue and to start talking about it, rather than everybody being up in arms about it. What are we doing about it? This is an attempt to do something about it.”
When asked about the criticism against changing the process for bench trials in Maryland, Mosby said, “We’re already doing this federally. The fact of the matter is that people keep asking ‘how are you taking away defendant’s rights to a bench trial?’ The question should be ‘why are we taking the community’s right to be a part of the criminal justice system.”
When pressed on why the average citizen would be in favor of this change Mosby asserted, that as an official elected by the community, “…the state has a right as well, to go and put cases before the community. The community has the right to be a part of the criminal justice system and so if you want to waive your constitutional right then we should have a say just like they do federally.”
Mosby will need a lot of support both locally and in Annapolis to get any real movement on her proposed reforms. When asked about how she plans to get her progressive proposals enacted, Mosby said, “First and foremost we have to build a coalition. The community has to understand why that’s so important and it’s not just for police misconduct cases, it’s for all cases.”
With the election fast approaching and a new administration set to take over City Hall in a little over a month, will Mosby be pushing the agenda now or waiting for the new administration. She said, “I think from a community perspective I intend to push now and in the future but I can’t do this alone. I think that this has to be a priority for the community.”
Baltimore City Police Commissioner Kevin Davis issued a statement in response to the proposed reforms that his department “will consider all recommendations that serve to improve our processes and enhance our reputation in the community.”
Fraternal Order of Police President Gene Ryan, in a statement, said, “Mrs. Mosby takes the position that a criminal defendant, police or citizen, should not have the right to request a bench trial to determine their guilt or innocence, when criminal charges are placed against them. Mrs. Mosby points to the inability to convict any officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody. Every judge in the State of Maryland, and particularly those Judges assigned to the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, should be offended at this position because what Mrs. Mosby is saying is that she does not believe that Judges who hear cases, non-jury, would do so in a fair and impartial manner nor can they render a verdict solely based on evidence presented. What Mrs. Mosby is doing is questioning the integrity of every Judge in the State of Maryland particularly those Judges in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City.”