On Sept. 29, the third hearing of the Freddie Gray case focused on the timing of the first trial for Officer William Porter, which was officially scheduled by Judge Barry Williams for November 30, 2015.
The Freddie Gray saga has been ubiquitous in Baltimore since April of 2015, but the issue of law enforcement reform has dominated our reporting on AFRO First Edition since the first day we landed in the weekday slot during drive time, 5-7 pm on Sept. 22, 2014.
About a week before we went daily, a surveillance video surfaced publicly showing Vincent Cosom and his boys, behaving more like gang bangers, than sworn Baltimore City Police Officers. The now infamous footage shows Cosom following Kollin Truss out of a liquor store to a nearby bus stop where he beat the hell out of him (while other “officers” held his arms) at the corner of North and Greenmount on June 15, 2014.
Almost one week to the day after we went on the air daily, The Baltimore Sun published its volatile expose on Baltimore police brutality, “Undue Force,” which reported among other things that the city had paid out $5.7 million since 2011 over lawsuits claiming police regularly beat up alleged suspects.
This was the daily news crucible we entered about a year ago and we’ve reported on policing policy and misconduct, as well as the efforts at law enforcement reform on almost a daily basis.
However, by Oct. 2014 we specifically shifted our focus with an eye on January and the upcoming 2015 legislative session in Annapolis.
We began to agitate on the airwaves, mainly through the reporting of the AFRO’s Roberto Alejandro and Stephen Janis and Taya Graham of The Real News Network (they were with Fox 45 at the time), a sometimes incendiary trio of talented journalists informally known as “The First Edition Mod Squad.” And we chronicled the efforts of groups like Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, and individuals like Pastor Heber Brown of Pleasant Hope Baptist Church, and 41st Legislative District Delegate Jill Carter and others, to craft law to prohibit law enforcement misconduct and provide more protection for citizens.
On April 13, after numerous rallies, speeches, bus rides to Annapolis, testimonies before various committees and arduous work on the House and Senate side, not one measure aimed at reforming the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights or any other meaningful police reform legislation passed.
On April 12, one day prior to the end of the session, Freddie Gray was arrested near Gilmor Homes in Sandtown-Winchester where he lived and one week later he was dead.
On the day of Gray’s funeral, April 27, the city imploded.
Our city has been in the international media spotlight ever since; Baltimore is regularly name checked along with Ferguson when the issues of police brutality and civil unrest are discussed. “We don’t want another Ferguson or Baltimore,” is a common refrain.
Nobody “wants” another Ferguson or Baltimore, but this is our reality as a city and it is the larger reality for most of Black America, the imposition of a violent police state and murder.
After the Uprising, we endured the bloodiest and deadliest summer in the city’s history, and by the end of it, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who fairly or unfairly has been blamed for much of the city’s tribulation, saw the writing on the wall and decided to not seek re-election in 2016.
As a news organization, AFRO First Edition continues to look forward, again eyeing Annapolis. This time, we hope meaningful law enforcement legislation will be signed into law by Governor Larry Hogan in 2016. If it happens it will take a Herculean effort.
Nevertheless, we’ll continue to report on and pray for our beautiful and deeply flawed city and most importantly its people.
Sean Yoes is a Senior Contributor for the AFRO and host and executive producer of AFRO First Edition, which airs Monday through Friday, 5-7 p.m. on WEAA, 88.9.