Baltimore’s top prosecutor wants her office to have considerably more power when it comes to enforcing the law and prosecuting cases of police misconduct.
At Coppin State University on Thursday, Marilyn Mosby outlined a series of proposed reforms for such cases. Out of all of her suggestions, the issue of bench trials seemed most personal. During the Freddie Gray officer trials, three of the officers picked a bench trial before a judge rather than one by jury. All were acquitted, and the remaining cases were dropped.
Mosby said today that judges and prosecutors should be able to reject that choice because that the court system has an “implicit bias” when a judge is handing down the verdict. Her fix? Allowing judges and prosecutors to reject that choice and require a defendant to face a jury.
Some of her other suggestions may also prove controversial. One calls for giving State’s Attorney’s Office investigators authority to make arrests, serve warrants and carry guns, which Mosby noted is allowed in Garrett, Dorchester and Talbot counties in Maryland. Another proposes giving federal prosecutors authority to intervene at the state and local level to charge officers for misconduct in federal court, even if local prosecutors opt not to press charges.
One of her suggestions would also change how authorities investigate reported use of force by police. If Mosby had her way, investigative teams for such cases would not consist only of Baltimore police officers. Rather, they would have one investigator apiece from the Baltimore Police Department, the state’s attorney’s office, the Maryland State Police Department and a Civilian Review Board. This practice, she says, would make use-of-force investigations “more impartial and collaborative.”
BPD Commissioner Kevin Davis issued a statement of response noting the changes police have been working on for the last year, and adding that “more are in progress, and even more on the horizon.”
“Public trust benefits from a wide variety of input,” Smith said. “We will consider all recommendations that serve to improve our processes and enhance our reputation in the community.”
The embattled state’s attorney did not reference a pending consent decree being crafted by police and the Department of Justice as a result of their investigation. However, her very public proposals arrive at a time when the city is anxiously awaiting the feds’ terms for change within the Baltimore Police Department.