That's How It Is These Days

That's How It Is These Days

Freddie Gray mural in Baltimore. Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

Another brutal white cop just walked in Baltimore, where a judge acquitted Edward Nero of all charges in the death of Freddie Gray. The bike cop who initially arrested Gray for being a black guy who acted wary of police long wielding  criminal power over his and other black lives, Nero was found not guilty of assault. Or reckless endangerment. Or two counts of misconduct in office. Or anything. This, for handcuffing, shackling and throwing Gray into the van without any restraints that might prevent him from getting slammed into its sides, thus breaking his neck on any ensuing rough ride, which is what happened. The verdict came after a five-day bench trial. Circuit Judge Barry Williams, who is black, stressed the facts applied specifically to Nero's case; five more trials remain.

City officials responded the way city officials tend to respond to atrocities carried out on their watch that might tarnish their legacy when enough time has passed for people to look back on them in a clear-eyed way. "This is our American system of justice," declared Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who called for calm amidst expected protests in a city that has seen far too much of this, and paid millions in settlements for it. "We once again ask the citizens to be patient and to allow the entire process to come to a conclusion."

The head of Baltimore's Fraternal Order of Police went further, incongruously but inevitably making Nero the victim. With no trace of irony, President Gene Ryan intoned, "Officer Nero is relieved that this nightmare is nearing an end. Being falsely charged with a crime, and being prosecuted for reasons that have nothing to do with justice, is a horror that no person should ever have to endure.... None of these officers did anything wrong." Kinda like, umm, Gray.

Meanwhile, on the anniversary of Gray's funeral last month, two police officers shot a 14-year-old boy running away from them with what turned out to be a BB gun, or as the police describe it, "They saw a young man with a firearm, or what looked like a firearm, in his hand.” Acknowledging the fraught date, a police spokesman said, "I wish I wasn’t here describing to you all what appears to be a very unusual circumstance of a (14)-year-old young man making a decision to leave his home with a replica gun in his hand,” thereby magically making it all the fault of a dumb-ass kid, not the blameless cops. His distraught mother, who came screaming up to police, was initially reported arrested; later accounts said she was "questioned."  The boy is expected to recover, at least physically. One of his friends was upset, but unsurprised. "That's how it is these days," he said. "You can't do nothing." Except, of course, be patient.

Nero arrives at court and celebrates the blue wall of silence. Photo by Baltimore Sun

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