Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake defended her handling of the recent riots and her previous work on police brutality issues during a briefing with reporters in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood Wednesday afternoon.
Rawlings-Blake said those who have criticized her leadership would be more productive if they offered suggestions on how she could better "speak her heart" to the community. She said she's devoted to improving the city.
"I'm passionate about my city. I'm passionate about helping communities that are in need, my track record speaks to it. It concerns me that the people I care about don't know what's on my heart," Rawlings-Blake said.
The mayor spoke outside the New Song Academy, where she met privately with schoolchildren. The school is blocks from where Freddie Gray was chased and arrested by police earlier this month. He was injured in police custody and later died, sparking a combination of peaceful protests and violent riots in Baltimore over the past week.
"I want our kids to have a better understand of what's happening … and hear from them what they think is the reason behind the violence and disruption on our streets," Rawlings-Blake said. She said the fourth-grade and eighth-grade students were "wise beyond their years" and understood the difference between constructive, peaceful protests calling for change and the destructive rioting.
"I got to see the real pain that our kids are experiencing," she said.
Rawlings-Blake said she told the children that she's working to improve their schools and recreation centers so they can have opportunities.
Clutching talking points titled "NOTE: Speak to YOUR record," the mayor told reporters that she's lobbied the General Assembly to revise the controversial law enforcement officers bill of rights. "I was down there almost by myself," she said.
She also touted bringing in the U.S. Department of Justice to review police conduct issues and a reduction in complaints and settlements involving police.
"We have certainly come a long way in turning the tide on finding ways to bridge that gap between the community and the police," she said.