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Rep. Cummings urges residents to respect Nero verdict next week

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings on Friday urged Baltimore residents to respect the outcome of next week's verdict in the trial of Officer Edward Nero.

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings urged Baltimore residents Friday to respect next week's verdict in the trial of Officer Edward Nero "whatever our personal reaction might be."

Circuit Judge Barry G. Williams is expected to announce his verdict Monday morning after testimony in the bench trial concluded this week.

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"The future of our community will not be defined at the moment of the verdict, but in the days and years that will follow," Cummings said at a news conference Friday.

Nero, 30, is charged with second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and two counts of misconduct for his role in the arrest of 25-year-old Freddie Gray last year. Gray died of spinal injuries sustained in police custody. His death sparked protests against police brutality, and his funeral was followed by rioting, looting and arson in the city.

Nero is the second of six officers to go to trial. Cummings also called for peace before the December trial of Officer William G. Porter, which ended in a hung jury. There were some protests after Porter's mistrial, but they were peaceful and city police made no arrests, Baltimore police spokesman T.J. Smith said.

Smith said the department has canceled leave for officers Monday as a precaution, and officials have been in contact with other law enforcement agencies to arrange additional support if necessary.

"We don't plan on having a large showing of officers unless there is a need," Smith said.

The department has worked to improve community relations, Smith said, adding, "We're in a much better place" than last spring when the unrest occurred.

Baltimore sheriff's office spokeswoman Maj. Sabrina V. Tapp-Harper said the department will be on "heightened security" Monday. The agency is responsible for security at the courthouse and has again has received a permit to control public sidewalks around the building.

Cummings said he hasn't gotten any indication from community leaders that there will be a strong reaction, but felt it was important to educate and remind his constituents about the legal process.

Anthony McCarthy, a spokesman for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, said the "mayor has faith in the people of Baltimore" and asked that residents "continue to be patient" as the legal process continues.

The next officer scheduled to be tried in the case is Officer Caesar Goodson Jr., the driver of the van used to transport Gray. Goodson faces charges including second-degree depraved-heart murder and has pleaded not guilty. His trial is scheduled to begin June 6.

Throughout Nero's trial, prosecutors and defense attorneys have debated issues related to the arrest, including whether Nero was responsible for making sure Gray was seat-belted in the van. Baltimore police implemented a policy requiring prisoners to be seat-belted just before Gray's arrest.

Cummings said he wants seat belts in all police vans, as well as procedures in place to make sure officers are safe when strapping a passenger in.

"We have to learn, really learn from this incident," he said.

Baltimore Sun reporter Justin Fenton contributed to this article.

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