Bad cops walk the streets of cities across America. The challenge is to get them off U.S. police forces, which will help the great majority of community-minded officers better serve and protect the public.
On Friday, plenty of people are praising Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby for filing charges against six police officers in the death of Freddie Gray. Someone, they say, needs to be held accountable for what’s being called the murder of Gray, a black man whose spine was severed after his arrest on April 12.
But while people in Baltimore are hoping the charges will calm nationally televised tensions there, Mosby’s actions deserve accolades for other reasons.
The charges against the six officers show that Mosby, who also is black, wants to prosecute what she sees as bad police officers in Baltimore.
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And the actions of those officers damage the entire community’s faith in the majority of good cops who are patrolling the streets.
In an insightful interview with Baltimore Magazine a few months ago, Mosby said this:
“My grandfather was one of the founding members of the black police organization in Massachusetts. And my grandfather, my uncles, my mother, my father — I have five generations of police officers. I know that the majority of police officers are really hard-working officers who are risking their lives day in and day out, but those really bad ones who go rogue do a disservice to the officers who are risking their lives and taking time away from their families. You have to apply justice fairly and equally, with or without a badge, and that's what I intend to do.”
And as she noted on Friday during her announcement of the charges, “To the rank-and-file officers, please know that the accusations against these six officers are not an indictment of the entire force.”
From here on out, Mosby will be watched carefully to see how aggressively she pursues the charges against the Baltimore officers. Some charges may be dropped along the way, as often happens in criminal cases. Mosby will have to explain to the public what’s going on at those times.
What Mosby is doing in Baltimore is exactly what Kansas Citians should expect from Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker.
Part of her job is holding the Kansas City Police Department accountable for any illegal actions they might take — even as she works side-by-side with them in attacking crime in the city.
Recently, a grand jury indicted an officer in the shooting of an unarmed man, but the charges were dropped when Baker said sufficient evidence did not exist to pursue the case. That’s how the system is supposed to work.
In Baltimore, the police will have the opportunity to fight the charges filed by Mosby, which means this story is far from over.