The Vanguard Justice Society, a group for black police officers, held a press conference Wednesday to voice support for Sgt. Alicia White, one of 6 officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray. (Amy Davis/Baltimore Sun)
Defenders of one of the police officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray described her Wednesday as an exemplary officer who was city-born and -raised, and went the extra mile to help her community.
Frankford neighborhood association leader Barbara Jackson said Sgt. Alicia L. White "was, to me, the most outstanding police officer out there," noting her responsiveness and volunteer work with children.
White's attorneys described her as a college-educated 30-year-old who had a promising career in the Police Department, and who attends church in Sandtown-Winchester, where Gray's arrest occurred.
"She's your sister, she's your cousin, she's your friend, she's your neighbor," said defense attorney Ivan Bates. "She is Baltimore City."
The comments in White's defense came at a news conference at Baltimore City Community College by the Vanguard Justice Society, a group for black city officers. Group leaders on Wednesday said they welcome the pending Department of Justice civil rights review of the Police Department but also want it to explore what they believe are racially discriminatory practices involving discipline and promotion of minority officers.
Sgt. Lisa Robinson, Vanguard's vice president, said black officers who report misconduct involving white peers often see no action taken and can even become the focus of investigations themselves. She said she hoped the Justice Department will investigate "the 'stop snitching' culture that is prevalent on the streets of Baltimore as well as within the Baltimore Police Department."
Capt. Eric Kowalczyk, a department spokesman, said Commissioner Anthony Batts has involved community members in the promotion process in an effort to "move the organization to be more reflective of the community." He said minorities and women make up 60 percent of the agency's command staff leadership, and 52 percent of the agency overall.
He added that internal reporting of misconduct has jumped from 98 cases reported in 2013 to more than 150 cases in 2014.
"We believe this shows that we're creating a disciplinary process that is more fair, encouraging more reporting," Kowalczyk said.
White is one of six officers charged in Gray's death. She faces charges of manslaughter, second-degree assault and misconduct in office.
In announcing the charges this month, Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby said White observed Gray unresponsive on the floor of a police van after his arrest on April 12 and took no action "despite the fact that she was advised that he needed a medic."
Gray died a week later of injuries that included a partially severed spinal cord.
White's attorneys said her interaction with Gray lasted just 15 seconds and that there is nothing to substantiate the charges she faces.
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Meanwhile, attorneys for the six officers continue to file motions in the case. On Tuesday, they filed a motion seeking a ruling on their earlier motion to have Mosby removed from the case, arguing a decision should be handed down before she takes the case to a grand jury, as she is expected to do.
Attorneys for Officers Garrett Miller and Edward Nero filed a motion Wednesday asking to inspect the physical evidence in the case, in particular a knife Gray was allegedly carrying that the officers cited as the reason for arresting him. Mosby has said that the knife was not an illegal switchblade under Maryland law, but Baltimore police have said the knife violates city code.