What happened to Freddie Gray to cause his death? This was the question that crippled a city and engulfed our country daily last week. Marilyn J. Mosby, the Maryland state attorney, is attempting to answer that question in an informative, rational, transparent manner. I was proud and excited that she brought charges, including homicide, manslaughter, and misconduct, against the six officers involved less than three weeks after the April 12 arrest of Gray.
What was so extraordinary about the time frame in which the announcement of the charges were made was that it contradicts the notion that when police kill citizens in highly questionable circumstances, there must be a secret, suspicious, lengthy investigation that takes months if not years to conclude.
So many times before, minority communities have been told to be patient and have faith that the investigation will be fair. This has often led to the sense that deaths are swept under the rug, and nobody is held accountable. There are so many examples of these long, secretive investigations breaking the hearts of the family and the communities that it’s easy to conclude that the indictment of the police officers in Baltimore was a miracle.
But it shouldn’t be seen as a miracle; it should be seen as holding officers accountable when they use excessive deadly force, similar to when any person breaks the law and is held accountable for their actions. The police should not be above the law.
Mosby swiftly indicted the officers based on the facts—the officers arrested Gray without grounds and violated police procedure by putting him in handcuffs and leg restraints in a van without a seatbelt. She did not allow assumptions about the victim to enter the conversation and cloud the police officers’ use unnecessary force.
Prosecutors must police the police, and when they don’t, society pays. When there is no transparency, there is no trust. The duty of a prosecutor is to seek justice and to bring charges where probable cause is present to provide the family and the community an opportunity to obtain justice. Mosby did exactly this.
In previous cases, such as that of Eric Garner in New York and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, there was no indictment of the officer. These cases clearly demonstrate the power and the broad discretion of the prosecutors. Prosecutors matter, and citizens are the check and balance of justice system—choosing a prosecutor resides in your right to vote.