As people who live in and love Baltimore wrestle with the outcome of the second trial in the death of Freddie Gray, many may question whether the door is closing on our collective opportunity to advance justice in Baltimore. The answer is a resounding no.
It’s important to demand that each officer answer for his and her role in Gray’s death. The trials, however, are not enough to prevent racially unjust and injurious arrests, regardless of the verdicts. The problems that led to Gray’s death are systemic and demand systemic solutions. Thus, as the trials wind their way through the court system, it is imperative that that we broaden our focus and commit to dismantling the larger systems of structural racism and poverty that endanger communities across Baltimore every single day.
One vehicle for this larger change is the ongoing U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) pattern and practice investigation into the Baltimore Police Department. The DOJ investigation provides a key opportunity for Baltimore residents to report their own encounters with law enforcement and suggest ways to improve policing in Baltimore—suggestions that, if incorporated into a consent decree, courts will be able to enforce over the coming years. In addition, recent changes to state legislation will provide more opportunity for civilians in Baltimore to have a say over how officers are trained and disciplined when discipline is needed.
OSI-Baltimore grantees Baltimore United for Change, Baltimore Action Legal Team, No Boundaries Coalition, and the Campaign for Justice, Safety and Jobs are helping to lead these reform efforts, and it is certainly not too late for concerned citizens to connect to one of these organizations or take other actions to become agents of change. The work of advancing justice in the name of Freddie Gray has only just begun.