Before Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby charged six officers in the death of Freddie Gray, just five city officers during the past three decades have faced criminal prosecution for on-duty actions that resulted in death, reports the Baltimore Sun. One was found guilty; that verdict was overturned on appeal. Since 2006, 67 people died in encounters with officers and two officers faced criminal charges in those incidents. One, who was on duty when a fatal shooting took place, was acquitted. Another, who was off duty at a nightclub, was convicted and sentenced to 15 years in a separate shooting.
That illustrates the high bar Mosby faces as she seeks to turn her charges into convictions. Four officers in the Gray case face charges that range from involuntary manslaughter to second-degree-murder; the two others face lesser charges. “It’s very difficult to get verdicts against the police,” said A. Dwight Pettit, an attorney who has filed dozens of civil lawsuits alleging police brutality. “People do not want to believe — before the advent of cameras and cellphones — that the police would do that type of malicious conduct.” Policing experts say the reason Baltimore officers avoid charges is clear: They are frequently thrust into dangerous situations in one of the nation’s most violent cities and must protect themselves, their partners and others in the vicinity. “As horrible as it is, the officer can do it right by the book and someone may tragically lose their life,” said Bill Johnson, executive director of the National Association of Police Organizations.