The president of the Baltimore police union on Thursday said that criminals have become "empowered" following the recent unrest and that, with six officers charged in Freddie Gray's death, city police are more "afraid" of being arrested than shot on duty.
Gray, 25, died a week after suffering a severed spinal cord and other injuries in police custody. His death led to more than a week of protests and later rioting, that prompted a citywide curfew and the deployment of the National Guard.
"The criminals are taking advantage of the situation in Baltimore since the unrest," said Gene Ryan, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3. "Criminals feel empowered now. There is no respect. Police are under siege in every quarter. They are more afraid of going to jail for doing their jobs properly than they are of getting shot on duty."
The union released the statement on Twitter a day after the officers charged in Gray's death filed a motion to have the trial moved out of Baltimore. Police commissioner Anthony W. Batts apologized to the union Monday night for putting officers in harm's way.
Ryan said Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby, who charged the six officers, had "essentially overturned" Illinois v. Wardlow, a 2000 U.S. Supreme Court ruling. In that case, it was ruled that two Chicago police officers who chased a man in a known drug area and found a handgun in his bag did not violate the fourth amendment.
Mosby declined to comment on the union president's claims.
"I refuse to litigate this case through the media," she said in a statement from her spokeswoman. "We want to ensure we are able to conduct a fair and impartial process for all parties involved."
Three officers were originally charged with false imprisonment, a charge that was later removed. All six were charged with reckless endangerment in a grand jury indictment.