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Drop the antagonism: When will the FOP mend fences with Mosby?

Gene Ryan, the president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #3, speaks at a news conference at the union’s headquarters in Hampden about the Community Oversight Task Force. (Jessica Anderson, Baltimore Sun video)

With the upcoming election just weeks away, it's understandable why police union president Gene Ryan would renew his three-year-old denigration of Baltimore City State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby's decision to prosecute six officers who failed to safeguard Freddie Gray's life while in police custody ("Baltimore police union president calls on community oversight panel member to resign," May 9). Clearly, Mr. Ryan wants a different prosecutor elected, one who will return to the days when the union did not fear prosecution in a police homicide case.

Baltimore's most powerful union expected Ms. Mosby, whom they had supported for election, to follow the customary practice of deferring to the police investigation and findings and subsequently dismissing criminal allegations with apologies to the deceased's loved ones. The state's attorney chose a different path. Prosecutors conducted a separate investigation and presented evidence to a grand jury. The grand jurors found criminal charges were warranted. Mr. Ryan reacted immediately with the first of many scathing attacks.

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Reasonable people may disagree whether sufficient evidence existed to convict, as the 12-person Baltimore jury discovered in being unable to reach a unanimous verdict at the first officer's trial. The Sun reported jurors overwhelmingly favored conviction on two crimes, acquittal on a third charge and remained evenly divided on the remaining charge. But no one familiar with the evidence presented at trial should question the propriety of Ms. Mosby bringing charges against the officers. That was the trial judge's repeated finding in denying the police motion to dismiss the cases: sufficient evidence existed to charge the four officers. Mr. Ryan's letter made no mention of these judicial rulings, nor of the trial jury's two near-convictions.

The facts leading to Freddie Gray's death — leaving him defenseless and vulnerable on the floor of a police van — informed Ms. Mosby that her sworn duty to administer equal justice required presenting the evidence at a public trial where people learned what happened to cause Freddie Gray's death and assessed accountability. Union President Ryan levels sweeping charges against Ms. Mosby, accusing her of not trusting police, destroying the police-prosecution relationship, and worsening city crime. He would be wise to begin the conversation by acknowledging the lasting damage the eight convicted officers of the city's Gun Task Force caused their relationship through police criminality and racketeering activities, forcing the state's attorney to dismiss hundreds of prior convictions.

Mr. Ryan might also reconsider his strenuous objection to prosecutors asking police witnesses to provide information affecting their credibility in new arrests. That's what a prosecutor's supposed to do as a minister of justice to ensure a successful prosecution. Perhaps Mr. Ryan will heed his own advice and drop the antagonism toward Ms. Mosby by taking the first step toward building a better relationship that serves the public interest and community.

Doug Colbert, Baltimore

The writer teaches at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law.

Send letters to the editor to talkback@baltimoresun.com. Please include your name and contact information.

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