After Thursday’s ruling that the trials of six Baltimore police officers charged in cases related to the death of Freddie Gray would remain in the city’s jurisdiction, mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said she had been “confident that judge would make the right decision.”
“It will allow us to focus on healing the city,” Rawlings-Blake said. “By healing, I mean continuing the work we are doing to reform the police department.” She added that the “healing” process also includes working with federal Department of Justice investigators who are looking into the civil rights patterns and practices of the department as well as building better relationships between police and the communities they serve.
Rawlings-Blake was joined at the City Hall press conference by interim police commissioner Kevin Davis, who was present at today’s peaceful demonstration outside the Clarence M. Mitchell, Jr. Courthouse. Davis stressed his department’s preparedness for handling potential chaos around the protests since the pre-trial motion hearings began last week. He said he heard some of the protestors chanting “Commissioner go home!” but added that he’d rather hear those chants than ‘Commissioner, where are you?”
Davis said he has met privately with protest groups in recent days, passing along his cell phone number to protest leaders and agreeing to stay in communication as the six cases move forward. Davis said one arrest was made Thursday outside the courthouse—but by the Baltimore City Sheriff’s Office—not the Baltimore City Police Department.
The most pointed moment of the news conference came when Rawlings-Blake was asked about the City’s recent $6.4 million wrongful death settlement with Gray’s family and, specifically, remarks by Lt. Gene Ryan, president of Baltimore City Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge #3, about the deal.
Ryan has called the decision by city officials “obscene and without regard to the fiduciary responsibility owed to the taxpaying citizens of the City.” He said in a statement that the settlement “threatens to interrupt any progress made toward restoring the relationship between members of the Baltimore Police Department and the Baltimore City government.” He called the move to settle “ridiculous” before any guilt has been determined in the case and told The Baltimore Sun that he was concerned the payout would prejudice jurors.
In response, Rawlings-Blake blasted Ryan, saying, “he either doesn’t understand” the distinction between a civil settlement and a criminal case or his reaction is “a demonstration of his willingness … to mislead the rank and file.”
She referred to his comments as the “trash he is spewing to his membership.”
Beyond defending her administration’s efforts to settle with Gray’s family as the fiscally prudent course for the City, Rawlings-Blake made the case that the settlement also benefits the six charged officers, who are now protected from personal litigation suits from Gray’s family as part of the negotiated deal. She also said the officers have the right to “opt out” of the settlement agreement with Gray’s family, but none have chosen to do so.
“The only thing he [FOP president Ryan below] should be saying is ‘Thank you,’ Rawlings-Blake said.