Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s victory in Tuesday’s Democratic Primary proved what should have been pretty obvious. About half of this city supports her through thick and thin. About half doesn’t. After a hard-fought campaign featuring two credible, well-funded challengers, Ms. Mosby remains as polarizing a figure as she ever was.
We think it’s time for Baltimore to move on.
We don’t mean that Baltimore should be uncritical of her performance in one of the city’s most crucial jobs. Quite the contrary. But we do believe it is time to put to rest the divisive and unproductive debate about her prosecution of the six officers involved in Freddie Gray’s death. It was neither the source of all ills that have befallen Baltimore, as some of her detractors suggest, nor was it the wellspring from which all criminal justice reform in this city flowed, as she and some of her backers have implied. Her decision to prosecute was momentous at the time and will remain an important part of Baltimore’s history. But it was three years ago that she announced the indictments of the six officers and two years ago that she dropped all remaining charges in the cases after securing no convictions in four trials. We need to stop debating whether Ms. Mosby did the right thing then and focus instead on what she and everyone else in Baltimore’s criminal justice system are doing now.
That means the Fraternal Order of Police needs to stop using those cases as a springboard into an argument that Ms. Mosby’s “antagonism and obvious distrust of the Baltimore Police Department” has led to the spike in violent crime Baltimore has experienced during the last three years. If those cases had a chilling effect on Baltimore officers’ willingness to do their jobs, as FOP leaders have repeatedly contended, it has been a phenomenon of their own making. Ms. Mosby’s decision to charge those officers aggressively has not been indicative of a desire by the state’s attorney to prosecute others for doing ordinary police work. Yes, Baltimore police are under greater scrutiny than they once were, but that is a function of increased consciousness by society of the legacy of police abuses, the advent of body cameras and, above all, Baltimore’s consent decree with the federal government.
And much as Ms. Mosby might like to draw a straight line between her decision to charge the officers and the consent decree, there is a lot more to the story. Then-Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake had been under intense pressure to request that the DOJ switch from a collaborative review to a full civil rights probe of the Baltimore police well before then, and she had promised body cameras for police six months before Gray’s arrest and death. The fact that the city is under a consent decree today owes more to Mayor Catherine Pugh’s determination to do whatever was necessary to get it signed before the Trump administration took office than anything else.
The reality is that we are in a transition to a new era of law enforcement in this city, and neither the police nor the community yet fully understand what that means. Ms. Mosby’s actions didn’t cause that, for good or ill. It is the result of years of unconstitutional practices and a commitment by the city’s leaders, her included, that it must not continue.
We did not endorse Ms. Mosby for re-election, but we nonetheless root for her success as an essential component to making Baltimore a safer city. That cause is served neither by worshiping her as a hero of criminal justice reform because of the Gray cases nor by demonizing her as an enemy of police because of them. Let’s judge her instead by what matters: her ability to work with police to build strong cases and to present them in court. The voters of Baltimore have given her a second term. Let us see her reward their trust.
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