Today’s indictment of six Baltimore police officers in connection with the death of Freddie Gray comes on the heels of a turbulent week during which Baltimore residents expressed fury over Gray’s death. The news that the officers are being charged—and that one is being charged with second-degree murder—occasioned widespread surprise from a public that’s grown accustomed to cops who harm civilians avoiding prosecution.
One group of people who were not surprised, it seems, were Baltimore police officers. “You could see it coming a mile away. I would call it a foregone conclusion,” said retired Baltimore cop Leon Taylor, who left the force four years ago. “The big picture is that the police are always held accountable for what elected officials can’t provide for the people—for failed infrastructure and failed policy.”
Taylor said his phone had been ringing ever since the indictments were announced, and that, unlike many outside observers, the cops he has talked to today were not caught off guard by the news. “Cops always get screwed over. It’s nothing new,” he said, adding, “The public thinks the police are above the law, but the police see themselves as expendable.”
Given that Darren Wilson, in Ferguson, and Daniel Pantaleo, in Staten Island, were not charged in connection with the deaths of Michael Brown or Eric Garner, respectively, that’s not a perspective many Americans share. But, at least based on the small sample of people in the law enforcement community I was able to reach this afternoon, Taylor’s lack of surprise at the charges seems to capture the feeling among some cops.
The executive director of the National Fraternal Order of Police, Jim Pasco, sent me a fairly muted statement when I asked him what he thought of the charges, saying only that the FOP asks people to “withhold judgment until the facts are known,” and that “police officers have a right to due process and equal justice—just like anybody else.”
Joseph Giacalone, a retired NYPD Detective Sergeant, was less restrained in his assessment. “Unfortunately I have to agree with the decision,” Giacalone told me. “Because I have no answer to why they threw him into the police van in the first place. What was the charge? Why did they arrest him? He didn’t commit any crime,” he said, adding “A lot of the guys I’ve spoken to feel the same thing I do.”