Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby
Support for Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby
(August 5, 2016) Claims of police brutality or misconduct are not unwarranted and should not be seen as egregious, much like complaints against a teacher or a medical doctor or a politician. What is highly problematic is that police brutality and police misconduct cases have overwhelmingly ended in few indictments and little to no convictions. Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby is one of few state’s attorneys in the United States to seek prosecution for police officers accused of misconduct, brutality, or the unlawful death of civilians–in this case, the death of Freddie Gray, an unarmed black man in Baltimore. The capacity for Mosby to work within a white male dominated structure as a black woman and to seek prosecution against members of the law enforcement community–who typically work in unison with prosecutors’ offices to bring the unlawful to justice–is likely a turning point in the history of police reform that’s unfolding before our eyes.
On Wednesday July 27th, 2016, State’s Attorney Mosby announced that three of the remaining cases of the six officers initially charged and indicted in the death of Freddie Gray would be dropped. While said announcement drew criticism and speculation and further calls for Ms. Mosby’s disbarment, we the undersigned offer our support for Baltimore’s State’s Attorney.
We Denounce the Disbarment Request led by Professor John Banzhaf
In June of 2016, George Washington University law professor John Banzhaf III called for Mosby’s disbarment for ethics violations and for prosecuting charges not supported by probable cause. However, when Freddie Gray was arrested, he had not committed a crime. The unlawful arrest was probable cause to file charges; but even more than that, the documented failure to ignore Freddie Gray’s requests for medical help was sufficient. Most importantly, Freddie Gray’s death one week after he was taken into police custody and the determination by a medical examiner that his death was a homicide constituted probable cause to file criminal charges against the officers responsible for taking him into custody, arresting him and transporting him.
We acknowledge the adverse effects of Systemic Racism and Sexism
We, a network of black women, recognize that the complaints Banzhaf filed are the very claims that give us leverage to support Mosby–in doing one of the toughest jobs in America right now. In light of current movements for police and criminal justice reform, and while muddling through systematic patriarchy and racism, Mosby, the law enforcement community, the criminal justice system, and the community overall could have been best served if Banzhaf would have considered his legal prowess when deciding to go after Mosby. Banzhaf, perhaps best known for defending women in discrimination lawsuits, failed to recognize the race and gender discrimination that Mosby likely experienced when she broke the mold of a complacent police force, where agencies are often fully supported by State’s Attorney offices. He also failed to acknowledge racism and discrimination as it relates to the disparate treatment of blacks in the criminal justice system, especially in their contact with police officers. In a July 27th press conference, Mosby mentioned how challenging it is to work with SELECT (not all) members of the Baltimore City Police Department (BPD) and made it clear that she is NOT “anti-police” but “anti-police brutality”. The problem is when “the police investigate themselves,” she said. The BPD does not have an independent citizens review board to complement the efforts of internal police investigators charged with investigating police misconduct or brutality cases. This is a major obstacle to holding police accountable to the communities they serve.
Don’t Confuse our Passion with our Expertise and Professionalism
Mosby is described as giving a passionate explanation on July 27th for why her office decided to discontinue the criminal trials against the officers. Some have ridiculed her presentation, claiming that she should have toned it down a bit or that the press conference was staged. The response to Mosby is similar to the response to the passionate Sandra Bland who engaged with the State Trooper in Waller County, Texas in just as passionate a manner. Black women’s passions are often confused with anger or a lack of professionalism. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Those who engage in such critiques are likely disconnected from our lived experience. Our passions, regardless of our social status, come from how we are impacted by police misconduct directly–as victims of undue force, sexual assault, and killings–and indirectly–as witnesses and survivors of loved ones harmed or killed at the hands of police. Mosby, like many of us, appeared to show compassion for a mother who lost her son. Freddie Gray’s death should supersede critiques about the passionate response to the Gray family and the people of the Gilmore Homes community regarding the decision to discontinue the criminal cases against the officers.
The disbarment complaint, the lawsuits, and the stronghold response from the Fraternal Order of Police are acts of bullying that have been empirically noted as commonplace from the law enforcement community. Claims that State’s Attorney Mosby would act maliciously toward police are misguided and false. Marilyn Mosby comes from a family that includes generations of law enforcement officers. Her decision to pursue a career in law came from a desire to make an impact in her community. Since taking office in January 2015, Mosby has implemented strategies to improve relationships between the Baltimore community and the police. Holding police accountable for excessive uses of force is essential to improving these relationships.
We support Marilyn Mosby
State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s decision to file charges against the six police officers involved in the arrest, transport, and death of Freddie Gray was neither hasty nor malicious. Rather, by seeking to hold law enforcement accountable for the untimely death of Freddie Gray, State’s Attorney Mosby sought to restore justice in a system riddled by impunity