Political prosecution of police helps restore order in Baltimore

Political prosecution of police helps restore order in Baltimore

Photo above by Susan Melkisethian with Flickr Creatives Commons License

By Len Lazarick


Marilyn Mosby made a calculated political decision to prosecute six Baltimore police officers in the death of Freddie Gray, and you have to wonder what kind of weekend Baltimore would have had if she hadn’t.

Mosby’s quick “rush to judgment” as the police union’s lawyer put it illustrates why Maryland and much of the rest of the country still has popular elections for top local prosecutors.

Mosby said she had enough evidence to bring the charges. Some months down the road a jury — and likely one not in Baltimore — will decide if that’s true.

Mosby was criticized for referring to the demonstrators’ cries for justice.

Justice is depicted as a blinded-folded woman with scales in hands, but that hardly reflects the reality of our justice system or the situation in Baltimore.

Justice with eyes wide open

Mosby had her eyes wide open. She could see the mass demonstrations over Freddie Gray, and the excuse he had become for riots, looting and arson. She campaigned on a promise of working with police to reduce violent crime but also holding police accountable.

The charges she announced Friday sent a clear message to the community and the police that someone would be held accountable.

According to an important article in the Sun detailing the police internal investigation, the officers there were stunned by her swift action despite unanswered questions about what happened.

Freddie Gray was no model citizen. He had an array of drug-related charges on his rap sheet. He ran from police — suspicious behavior, but not a crime — and an hour later he had a severed spine and head injuries.

He died a week later. His requests for medical aid went unheeded. Police believe some prisoners fake injuries, but ultimately, it seems apparent Freddie Gray died of injuries he got in police custody.

Proving the police killed Freddie

Mosby says police officers killed Freddie Gray. The Baltimore community believes the police killed Freddie Gray. Mosby and her staff will have to persuade at least 12 people on a jury that the police killed Freddie Gray.

There will likely be several different juries to be persuaded, since the police officers will probably ask for separate trials.

Proving that police killed Freddie Gray will be hard to do, defense attorneys say. But the police have been warned, and the community knows the police have been warned about aggressive policing and arrests.

This warning did not deter police from arresting dozens of people over the weekend for a crime as innocent as violating a curfew and other laws during demonstrations.

Restoring calm

Marilyn Mosby, acting as a politically aware elected state’s attorney, did more to restore calm and order to Baltimore than thousands of cops and soldiers, the mayor or the governor.

That calm and order was almost derailed Monday by the false report of a police shooting of a man, broadcast initially by Fox News, then spread by people who did not actually see the shooting. On video, you did see the man put in an ambulance, then later walking out of hospital.

The law has given prosecutors and police immense discretion to act on crimes or not, to arrest or not to arrest, to charge or not to charge.

Mosby may have ruined the careers of six cops who may or may not be guilty of a crime. But she certainly restored the peace of Baltimore this weekend, and perhaps moved the city and its police force toward a better and more balanced relationship.

About The Author

Len Lazarick


Len Lazarick was the founding editor and publisher of MarylandReporter.com and is currently the president of its nonprofit corporation and chairman of its board He was formerly the State House bureau chief of the daily Baltimore Examiner from its start in April 2006 to its demise in February 2009. He was a copy editor on the national desk of the Washington Post for eight years before that, and has spent decades covering Maryland politics and government.


  1. ReadersWhoWonderAloud

    The phrase “political prosecution” in the title of the article ought to offend everyone who believes that justice is supposed to be blind. Instead, putting a thumb on the scale is being praised here.

    May God protect the police from the Baltimore thug-ocracy and its champions, elected or not.

  2. InGodWeTrust

    Mossy should be ashamed for showing a glaring bias in her comments. It confirms she does not even understand her own role and is incompetent to boot. She should step down, especially now, for giving out wrong names and addresses, which wreaked havoc on innocent families.

  3. abby_adams

    IMHO the peace is temporarily restored as these officers have only been charged, not convicted. Wonder if the community will be so calm if these six are not convicted? It should be an interesting summer.

  4. dwb1

    The political class should just give the people what they want: Decriminalize drugs and constitutional carry of firearms so that the citizens can police their own neighborhoods. I know a lot of people who carry “spring assisted” knives, you can buy one in Wal-Mart. Baltimore City laws are absurd (along with the terrible schools). That’s why I moved out. These laws (drug, knife, gun) laws end up only trapping minorities.

  5. Small Town Reporter

    I would also like to think that Mosby made a decision based on the evidence in the case, it also true that prosecutors often aim higher and then settle on a lesser charge. The six may get simple assault charges

  6. Small Town Reporter

    I don’t think we can forget that Mosby is in fact a politician, which often use their powers to advance themselves and an agenda, hard to find an elected prosecutor that doesn’t do that, where’s the nugget here. And innocent people often go to jail on false police reports or when bad cops withhold exculpatory information…happens all the time. These cops also have the benefit of a dream team defense, but your average poor black defendant gets and an overworked public defender with a case load that covers every inch of their desk and to the ceiling. If these men are innocent, the vast resources they have will prove it.

  7. joe

    Baltimore’s Democratic Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake has declared next week as “Kiss a Thug” week in the city.

  8. ReadersWhoWonderAloud

    Len seems to ignore the point made by Harvard’s Dershowitz: the justice system is exclusively concerned with determining guilt or innocence of the accused. Period.

    Prosecutors ought not validate or reward, politically or otherwise, rioting. Even if dong so helped to curtail the disorder this week, it makes future rioting in Baltimore more and not less likely, especially if it turns out she cannot prove the charges she’s leveled to the satisfaction of juries or the law. Will she be a hero then?! Who will she vilify then?

    Enough hagiography, Len.

    • lenlazarick

      I sincerely doubt Dershowitz’s position is something so simplistic. But if perchance he did, I would disagree. Hagiography refers to writings about the saints. I don’t think readers of Maryland Reporter have much trouble distinguishing between saints and politicians. Mosby is the latter.

  9. Edward Jones

    50 years of rewarding unwed young teen mothers, then throw in NAFTA and the like which moves the low skilled jobs overseas. Mix, shake thoroughly, allow to simmer and the prefect no peace.no justice, no self ownership, no responsibility, no pride of accomplishment, no respect for education, on, and on. The “War” on poverty is a complete, utter failure. But too many bureaucrats, and racists make a good living off this failure so it will likely never change until collapse:(

  10. Sean Corbett

    Let’s be clear, these cops will get something Freddie Gray didn’t: a trial. (Mind you, he didn’t commit a crime and wouldn’t need a trial to begin with.)

  11. Gradus Quia

    If the prosecutor fails, the mayor who set her up still profits from the play. If Mosby succeeds, the mayor’s cronies will promptly slap her down. She’s too young and naïve to see that she’s already sacrificed her own career, even as she sacrifices the lives and careers of 6 cops.

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