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In the wake of Freddie Gray verdict, AFSC points to need for deeper changes

Memorial for Freddie Gray
Photo: Bryan Vana / AFSC

On May 23, Baltimore police officer Edward Nero was acquitted on charges of assault and reckless endangerment in the events that led to the death of 25 year old Freddie Gray.

The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) – a Quaker organization that promotes lasting peace with justice – is determined to ensure accountability for police who harm and kill unarmed people and is calling for the immediate adoption of five steps to prevent police violence in the future. This is more meaningful today, after Edward Nero, who was involved in the arrest of Freddie Gray, was acquitted.

According to Farajii Muhammad, AFSC’s Youth Empowerment Coordinator in Baltimore, “police chiefs and police unions should welcome and support these policies, since it’s in everyone’s best interests – particularly theirs – to implement policies that can mend broken trust between officers and their communities.”

AFSC joins with our partners to urge implementation of the following steps towards systemic change:

  1. The Department of Justice must fully investigate and bring civil rights charges when applicable against officers when it appears they have broken the public and community’s trust. Only through a justice system that recognizes that “Black lives matter” can we achieve a sense of fundamental balance and institutional fairness.
  2. Individual states, through the governor’s office and/or through state assembly, must appoint special state prosecutors who can fairly judge these matters without the burden of institutional relationships with the police. A special prosecutor who does not rely on the police for information and witnesses in other cases has less of a burden to side with the police or to convene grand juries to vindicate the police version of events.
  3. All civilian review boards must be strengthened. Review boards need the power to subpoena officers and compel testimony; to complete independent investigations and offer findings; to hold fair and impartial administrative trials; and to enact penalties independent of police department/chief review. These boards should be completely independent from the police department, with board members appointed by city councils, mayors, and/ or a direct vote.
  4. Police behavior must be modified in ways that ensure the highest standards of public accountability. The technology of dashboard and body cameras should be implemented to give an extra layer of safeguard to the community that the police interact with. These videotapes can help make officers more aware and reserved in their behavior and can provide important evidence and indicate need for future training in proper police protocols and conduct.
  5. Legislators must prioritize spending on allowing communities to lead themselves. Rather than massive expenditures on militarized policing, state and local governments should invest in institutions and services that actually make communities stronger—quality public education, healthcare, addiction and mental health services, jobs and job training, and mediation and restorative justice programs. Increased resources should be put toward building more peaceful and better-resourced communities whose police reflect the communities’ diversity and share their common priorities.

For decades, public officials have facilitated or ignored a culture of policing that is deeply racist, allows police violence without accountability, and thus endangers the people officers are sworn to protect and serve. AFSC stands with the communities most deeply affected by violent policing as they demand deep changes for transparency and accountability.