Will Police Officers’ Illegal-Arrest Charges Change Things?

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Officer Caesar R. Goodson Jr., Officer Edward M. Nero, Officer Garrett E Miller (top L-R), Officer William G. Porter, Lt. Brian W. Rice, Sgt. Alicia D. White (bottom L-R),
Officer Caesar R. Goodson Jr., Officer Edward M. Nero, Officer Garrett E Miller (top L-R), Officer William G. Porter, Lt. Brian W. Rice, Sgt. Alicia D. White (bottom L-R),

Three of the six Baltimore police officers indicted in connection with the death of Freddie Gray are facing false-imprisonment charges, based on city prosecutor Marilyn Mosby’s determination that Gray’s arrest was illegal. Will that make police officers around the country more careful when making arrests?

That’s the question asked in a Wall Street Journal article from Sunday. Spolier: Pretty much everyone who weighs in agrees that it will. Some say for the better, some say for the worse.

Doug Ward, retired Maryland State Police major and head of the Division of Public Safety Leadership at Johns Hopkins, thinks it could have a positive effect. “If officers can’t assume impunity for doubtful arrests,” he said, “that’ll stop a lot of behavior.”

U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, who represents West Baltimore, called the charges “the start of something big.” Cummings thinks “it will cause police departments all over the country to rethink how they treat people when they arrest folks.”

That basic sentiment is echoed by former mayor Kurt Schmoke as well as West Baltimore residents. The opposing view is espoused by former federal prosecutor Steven H. Levin, who believes false imprisonment charges for a dubious arrest puts police “in an untenable position.” Baltimore police union president Gene Ryan said the “decision to charge the officers is going to make our job even harder.”



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