Anticipating potential unrest, the Baltimore Police Department has cancelled days-off for employees on the dates of two upcoming hearings for the six officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray, according to a departmental email obtained by BuzzFeed News.
"In order to ensure adequate staffing, the Police Commissioner is cancelling leave on September 2, 2015 and September 10, 2015, in accordance with the Memorandum of Understanding between the FOP and the BPD/City of Baltimore," stated the email, which was sent by Interim Police Commissioner Kevin Davis's chief of staff, Martin Bartness, to "ALLBPD" under the subject line "Cancellation of Leave."
The Memorandum of Understanding refers to a provision in the contract between the police union and the city that the department has the right to cancel leave in times of emergency.
The Circuit Court and the Sheriff's Office are also taking extra precautions at the hearings because of the heightened media attention and the potential for protests. Last week, court's administrative judge released an order--to "preserve the security and dignity of the Court"--detailing the security protocol and specific public and media restrictions. The Sheriff's Office announced that it would increase the number of deputies stationed at Courtroom 234, where the hearings are slated to take place.
The message from the commissioner reflects a department on edge, or particularly cautious, in the months since protests and riots shook the city following the death of Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old who suffered a fatal spinal injury while in police custody on April 12. It also suggest that Davis learned a lesson from the ousting of his predecessor.
Rank-and-file officers accused department leadership of being unprepared for the dangers they faced on the ground during the riots. At a union meeting in May, officers complained about how then-Commissioner Anthony Batts' handled the riots and hundreds raised their hands in support of a potential no-confidence vote against him. Two months later, on July 8th, the Fraternal Order of Police released a report criticizing Batts and his administration for failing to prevent the protests from escalating into riots. That same day, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake fired Batts, citing the city's rising crime rate. There had been 156 homicides in the city in 2015 by the day Batts was fired, and 100 of them had come in the three months following the unrest, according to data from the Baltimore Sun.
The hearings, scheduled for September 2 and 10, will address the defense's challenges to the case. Defense attorneys have filed motions arguing that Mosby recuse herself because her husband, Councilman Nick Mosby, represents the district where Freddie Gray was killed, and that the court proceedings be moved outside of Baltimore because of what defense attorney called a "presumption of prejudice" in the city. The defense has also argued that the case should be dismissed. Prosecutors have argued that the officers should be tried separately.
The six defendants, all BPD officers currently suspended from the force, face charges including second-degree murder, manslaughter, and assault.
Albert Samaha is the criminal justice reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Albert Samaha at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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