By Stephen Janis, Special to the AFRO
A disciplinary trial board cleared the officer who drove the van in which Freddie Gray sustained a fatal injury in 2015, of a series of administrative charges. Fourteen year-veteran Caesar Goodson was found not guilty of all 22 Baltimore Police Department (BPD) charges that alleged he had violated policy when he failed to seat belt Gray inside the van during the ride that led to his death in 2015.
The decision by the three-member board came after a week-long public trial, and now leaves the fate of Goodson in the hands of police commissioner Kevin Davis.
The ruling marked the first of three administrative hearings for officers previously charged criminally in the death of Gray. Earlier this year an investigation by Montgomery County police recommended Goodson, along with Sgt. Alicia White and Lt. Brian Rice be fired for violating internal policy during the arrest of Gray.
Sean Malone, who represented Goodson, blamed the department for providing poor training and lax supervision for Goodson’s failure to seat belt Gray. The defense also cited the Department of Justice report, which concluded Baltimore police used racist and unconstitutional tactics against the city’s African-American residents as proof that the department did not provide adequate training for officers.
But lawyers representing the department argued Goodson ignored a policy directive known as a General Order issued shortly before Gray was arrested that required officers to seat belt prisoners during transport.
The trial featured halting and at times vague video testimony from Goodson, who told investigators he could not explain why he failed to report van stops 3,4, and 5 during Gray’s transport on what’s known as ‘run sheet’, or a log of an officer’s daily activity. He also said he was not sure why he failed to report his visit to Maryland Shock Trauma center shortly after Gray was hospitalized. Goodson also testified that he thought Gray was playing the ‘hospital card’ when he asked another officer, William Porter, for medical assistance.
The verdict promoted a quick response from police commissioner Kevin Davis.
“Freddie Gray died in police custody. My thoughts and prayers remain with the Gray family. We will continue to make improvements within our organization to meet the expectations of constitutional policing demanded by our community,” Davis said in a written statement.