The decision by Baltimore’s state’s attorney to indict six police officers in the death of Freddie Gray, an unarmed 25-year-old Black man, brought a predictable barrage of criticism and howls of a rush to judgment. Next came false assertions that the prosecutor kowtowed to demands of protestors and bowed to fears the city could go up in flames.
What State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby did was uphold the duty of her office, which is to dispense justice and protect the rights of the citizens of Baltimore. “No one is above the law,” declared the state’s attorney in announcing charges against the officers.
What she did not do was bow to the Fraternal Order of Police, powerful White entities that demand “law and order” and a national trend of sidestepping, avoiding and running away from holding police officers accountable for the deaths of Black people.
She did not rely solely on the investigations of the Baltimore City Police Department as if the department and the prosecutor’s office were a single entity. While the state’s attorney and the police department work together in dealing with questions of crime and justice, they are separate and independent operations–or they should be.
But in cities across the country, the two are one insatiable beast that devours Black folk with impunity and without apology. Police departments across the country scoff when complaints are lodged and filed–or attempts are made to file complaints against officers. When a questionable death occurs, prosecutors around the country pick up reports from police departments that investigate and exonerate themselves and declare killings were justifiable homicides.
Black people, Black families, Black communities are left with the agony of loss, the arrogance of those in power and hopelessness that comes from an inability to get justice. Instead of focusing on the specific actions of officers in individual events, any question about police behavior is misconstrued as an assault on the entire department. An underlying threat also comes back: The Thin Blue Line between the thugs and the savages must not be touched or asked to explain itself. Police officers must be allowed to act without limits and are never to be questioned. The threats warn that if the watchers are not granted total power, they will walk away and criminal predators will tear the society, the city and the country apart. The predators and the thugs are Black, in particular Black males, with a growing number of Black females included in the group.
So year after year, incident after incident, the breasts of Black people ache and hearts are broken as nothing is done and no one cares. No one cares about Black pain and no one cares about fairness and justice for Black people in America.
However, in Baltimore, a 35-year-old lawyer decided to break with the errors of the past and forge a new path. State’s Attorney Mosby put her staff to work, hired her own investigators and put her own people on the streets as the events surrounding the death of Freddie Gray unfolded.
Her response was so on time and thorough that she could say May 1 that information the police department officially turned over to her was essentially already in her possession. She had been collecting information all along. She also worked with the Sherriff’s Department to have the death of the inner city Black man investigated.
Her actions prove that an independent prosecutor is essential in the quest for justice. She is an example of the swift and thorough movement of the justice system and a decision untainted by fear of powerful interests who wanted her to declare the Gray death was justified or offer a mealy mouthed excuse for passing the buck to someone else.
With all the officer-involved killings in recent times, Michael Brown in Ferguson to Eric Garner in New York and too many cases before and after, the Black community was told “we are a nation of laws and the criminal justice system’s decisions must be respected.”
President Barack Obama went on television to make such a declaration after the death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed Black teen visiting his father in Sanford, Fla., before being fatally gunned down by self-appointed neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman.
Now so-called respectable newspapers, pundits and experts across the country wish to pillory State’s Attorney Mosby and question her capability, character and motivation. The Fraternal Order of Police is calling for her to remove herself and editorial writers bemoan a “rush to judgment.”
Is it only justice when decisions are rendered and decisions are made that Blacks don’t agree with?
Is it only justice when prosecutors decide to take actions that Black folk don’t agree with?
Is it only justice when prosecutors fail to act and by their inaction say Black Lives Don’t Matter?
Blacks are supposed to accept decisions by prosecutors as fair and respect the law at all times but White people, White institutions and White interests cannot accept a legal decision by a Black woman? There is a much deeper and longer history of the criminal justice system, prosecutors and police plotting against Black people than there is Black prosecutors plotting against Whites or police officers.
The wheels of justice are turning and State’s Attorney Mosby has taken a bold, courageous and proper step in executing her duty to the people who elected her to act justly.
We will not stand by and let those who wish to assert White power and police control of Black people attack and assault her. She deserves our prayers, our support and our protection.
She is to be applauded and respected. Smear tactics, threats and slanted media questions should not be tolerated. She has stood for justice and we must stand with her. Hands off Marilyn J. Mosby!