NATIONAL BAR ASSOCIATION URGES THOROUGH INVESTIGATION INTO USE OF EXCESSIVE FORCE BY BALTIMORE POLICE IN MURDER OF FREDDIE GRAY, CALLS FOR OFFICERS TO BE PROSECUTED 

WASHINGTON, DC – The National Bar Association (NBA) is calling for a thorough investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice into the murder of Freddie Gray, who lost his life on Sunday, April 19 after experiencing a medical emergency while in police custody a week earlier. Police ignored Gray’s repeated cries for help and waited almost 45 minutes before calling 9-1-1 to assist him. The NBA does not believe that the Baltimore Police Department can be trusted to provide accurate information to the Department of Justice and calls for a separate and full investigation. In addition, the NBA calls for the prosecution of the officers involved in this case.

Although the Department of Justice announced that it would review the case yesterday, the NBA is skeptical that any information or evidence coming from the Baltimore Police Department will be credible, particularly since a recent probe into the city’s police showed systematic gaps in the monitoring of their conduct. In addition, the city of Baltimore has reportedly paid $5.7 million to settle more than 100 civil suits alleging police brutality.

“The Department of Justice cannot just accept the facts given to them by the police department they are investigating. This department already has a track record of police brutality and Freddie Gray’s death shows that more should have been done to police these officers. Now, there has been yet another miscarriage of justice and another mother has to bury a son,” said NBA President Pamela J. Meanes.

Gray’s death is the latest in a mounting number of deaths of unarmed African Americans that have been killed during what should have been a routine process. After his arrest on Sunday, April 12, Gray was being transported to a police station when he cried out for help. While police have said Gray’s injuries were not consistent with the amount of force they used, the NBA doubts that this 25-year-old young man could have broken his own vertebra by accident.

President Meanes insisted that Gray’s death was not a fluke. “Gray’s death raises even more questions about the use of excessive force by police officers and the need for a systematic change in policing. Why are so many unarmed African Americans dying at the hands of police? Well, it would appear police are getting away with murder,” she said.   The NBA has been outraged by these incidents of police brutality and misconduct across the nation. It continues to call for legal standards to be changed that were established by the U.S. Supreme Court in Tennessee vs. Garner when the Court held that “an officer may use deadly force against a fleeing suspect only when there is probable cause that the suspect poses a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or other.” This law gives the officer too much leeway to either escalate or de-escalate the amount of force being used.   “Tragically, in the case of unarmed African-American men, this law has been a death sentence,” said President Meanes. “But, the National Bar Association is waging war on police brutality and we will continue to organize, educate and mobilize until there is systematic and transformative change in our justice system.”

NEED FOR IMMEDIATE LEGAL REFORM

Since early July 2014, the National Bar Association has consistently advocated that one of the ways to eradicate the grave miscarriage of injustice caused by police brutality is by implementing legislative reform (local, state and federal) establishing Training, Accountability, and De-Escalation of the Use of Force:

LOCAL Click here to download • Stricter Adherence of Mental Health Testing • Detailed & Thorough Diversity Training • De-escalation of Force Training

STATE Click here to download • Establish an Independent Police Investigation • Establish an Independent Prosecution Body (for cases involving police brutality and misconduct)

FEDERAL  Click here to download • Mandatory Body Camera With Penalty For Tampering • Succinct Definition and Training for Escalation of Force • Succinct Definition and Training for Excessive Force • Felony Brutality & End Racial Profiling   “

Congress has to act and pass a law that contains a succinct definition and requires mandatory training for escalation and elevation of force. Until then we will continue to see police officers murder African Americans and the ‘law’ deem it ‘justifiable’ or ‘self-defense,’” said President Meanes.

Accordingly, the National Bar Association urges all Americans to be mindful of the sanctity of human life and demands federal and state legislators act to adopt laws to prevent police brutality and to help cultivate positive relationships between the community and the police.  The loss of life at the hands of police officers is becoming a public health crisis and is at a point where it should be deemed a State of Emergency. That is why the NBA insists that the federal and state government take a genuine look at municipal governance, community policing, and the disparate impact that racism and fear has on communities of color.

The National Bar Association is committed to continue its fight to improve our criminal justice system and will demand that substantive and transformative changes occur.   President Meanes discussed police brutality and misconduct during a session at 11:30 a.m. today at the NBA’s “Day on the Hill.” (Click here for details).

About the National Bar Association Founded in 1925, the National Bar Association is celebrating 90 years as the nation’s oldest and largest national network of predominantly African-American attorneys, judges, law professors. With more than 60,000 members, the NBA is organized around 23 substantive law sections, nine divisions, 12 regions and 80 affiliate chapters throughout the United States and around the world. For more information visit, www.nationalbar.og.