Commissioner Kevin Davis gave his Baltimore police force an A+ on Thursday for how it handled the protests after a mistrial was declared Wednesday in the case against Officer William G. Porter and said protesters shared credit for the high mark.
"For the folks that expected Baltimore to act in a way that was reminiscent of April and May, I think we just showed the world that we're better than that," Davis said. "Getting through [Wednesday] without any arrests is a source of pride."
Porter is charged with involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office in the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old Baltimore man who suffered a severe spinal cord injury in the back of a police transport van in April.
Gray's death a week later, on April 19, sparked protests against police brutality and his funeral was followed by rioting, looting and arson. Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby charged Porter and five other Baltimore officers May 1 in Gray's arrest and death, casting an intense spotlight on the Police Department and spurring a federal investigation of its patterns and practices by the Justice Department.
Reviews of the unrest in April have cast blame on the department, which was found to have been ill prepared for mass demonstrations.
Davis said Thursday that he has since been drilling the idea of "negotiated management" — rather than confrontation — with protesters into the heads of his street commanders, and that they applied that concept Wednesday.
"We're not going to allow the city to be shut down. We're not going to allow [Interstate] 83 to be shut down," he said. "But we are going to engage the protest leaders, formally and informally, and we are going to negotiate with them."
Davis said no officers used protective gear Wednesday, though it was close at hand. The department does not want to escalate tensions, but it will be prepared, he said. "I would rather take criticism any day of the week about being prepared than not being prepared."
Davis said he has taken note of some of the same "deficiencies" within the Police Department that Porter's defense attorneys noted at trial, including about the dissemination of department policies to officers and making sure that officers understand those policies. He said he is determined to continue implementing improvements with the help of the department's new director of strategic development, Jason Johnson.
Still, reviewing his department's performance Wednesday left him with a "good feeling," Davis said.
"I just wanted to get through this first trial, of six, in a way that sets a tone for the rest," he said, referencing the five other officers that face charges in the Gray case.
The sheriff's office — a separate agency — made two arrests Wednesday. Video of one arrest showed a sheriff's deputy grabbing a teenage boy by the neck. A spokeswoman for the sheriff's office said the teen was to be charged with failing to obey a lawful order and disorderly conduct.
Maj. Sabrina Tapp-Harper, the spokeswoman, said the arrest was being reviewed by the sheriff's internal affairs unit.
Officials say the video also shows an officer being kicked in the face by a bystander. They are asking anyone with additional video footage or information to call authorities at 410-396-1155.
Reporter Carrie Wells contributed to this story.