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Baltimore Police cancel leave for officers ahead of jury deliberations in Freddie Gray case

A brick rests in the middle of Eutaw Street as police guard Lexington Market during an uprising following the death of resident Freddie Gray, 25, after he was taken into police custody.
A brick rests in the middle of Eutaw Street as police guard Lexington Market during an uprising following the death of resident Freddie Gray, 25, after he was taken into police custody. (Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun)

Baltimore police have canceled leave next week for officers "out of an abundance of caution," as jurors are expected to begin deliberations as early as Monday in the case against Officer William G. Porter.

All sworn personnel will be assigned to 12-hour shifts, under a plan by Commissioner Kevin Davis to ensure the Police Department is adequately staffed.

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Attorneys are expected to present closing arguments Monday in Porter's case. He is one of six officers charged in connection with the April arrest and death of Freddie Gray; all six have pleaded not guilty.

Davis announced the decision to cancel leave on Friday, but he did not provide many details. Gray's death sparked widespread protesting and rioting across the city.

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Police spokesman T.J. Smith said Saturday officers are expected to have all equipment necessary to be prepared for various circumstances. He would not say whether officers were expected to have riot gear on hand.

"Officers are expected to be prepared every time they come to work with their first-aid kit, gun belt, with a variety of things," Smith said. "We're not going to get into every piece of equipment they are asked to bring to work every day.

"This is not in anticipation of anything. It is out of an abundance of caution. We believe the public has an expectation for us to be prepared for anything."

Police were roundly criticized for being unprepared when the rioting erupted in the spring. Davis took over command of the police after Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake fired then-Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts in July.

As people were rioting and looting city pharmacies, beauty salons and retail shops on April 27, police were waiting for riot gear that was on order, according to emails the Baltimore Sun obtained earlier this year. The city ordered 1,000 pairs of "protective riot gloves," 1,000 pieces of chest, leg and arm protection items, 1,000 riot shields and 1,000 baton rings.

A manufacturer was expected to deliver 200 shields within a day, according to one of the emails.

More than 250 masks were sent to the Western District that day while another 474 more mask packs were available to be distributed, and another 1,000 had been ordered. By that evening, 17 riot bags were assembled and pepper spray canisters were ordered.

Davis said Friday that leave for police "will be restored as conditions permit."

Gene Ryan, the president of Baltimore's Fraternal Order of Police union, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the preparedness efforts.

Davis joined Rawlings-Blake on Thursday to ask residents to react "respectfully" when the verdict is reached. Attorneys for Porter rested their case Friday. It is not known how long the jury's deliberations could last.

The mayor asked the public to "respect the judicial process."

"All of us today agree the unrest of last spring is unacceptable," she said at Thursday's news conference. "Baltimore has a chance to show the country how we can be heard peacefully, respectfully and effectively."

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