As the third trial in the death of Freddie Gray ends without a conviction, it’s clearer than ever that the injustices Mr. Gray’s case represents will not be resolved in a court room, but with long-term, sustained work to uproot the structural racism in our criminal justice system and beyond.
It’s important that the legal process in the death of Freddie Gray takes its course, but we must also look beyond the questions of whether the six officers violated existing laws and ask whether current policies and practices are just. Regardless of the outcomes of these trials, they will do nothing to prevent racially unjust and injurious arrests so long as the system that produces them remains in place.
Among the vehicles for 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 and throughout the state to have more 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.