The officers involved in Freddie Gray’s arrest and subsequent death last April were honored at a black-tie affair in Washington, D.C., last week.
Media Research Center (MRC), a right-wing news blog whose mission is “exposing and combating liberal media bias,” according to its website, honored three of the six officers: Lt. Brian Rice, Edward Nero and Gary Miller. The other three officers did not attend the event.
According to The Daily Beast, the officers were introduced to booming applause.
Deneen Borelli, a conservative author (known for writing “Blacklash: How Obama and the Left are Driving Americans to the Government Plantation”), columnist and frequent guest on Fox News, introduced the officers and inaccurately recounted the events surrounding Gray’s death.
“In April of last year, six Baltimore police officers were transporting Freddie Gray to jail and he died en route,” Borelli said. “Immediately someone made the accusation that Freddie Gray had been killed by the police. The accusation grew and grew — fed by the left, political agitators and the national media — to advance the anti-police narrative.”
Gray did not die en route. He fell into a coma while in the back of a Baltimore police van and subsequently died of a spinal cord injury at a hospital several days later. During trials for the officers prosecutors stated that police gave Gray a “rough ride,” where his hands and legs were shackled but his seatbelt was not fastened so he would be thrown around in the back of the van.
Charges against all of the officers were dropped in July after three trials ended in acquittals and one resulted in a hung jury.
Calling the charges “politics at its worst,” Borelli questioned, “Who will thank these officers? Who will thank all police officers — active, retired — at a time they are being so vilified?”
Not everyone felt the officers deserved thanks, though. New York Daily News writer Shaun King took to Twitter to post his outrage over the news.
The evening also included a presentation of “DisHonor” awards, which were presented to the most “outrageously biased” reporters of the year. Recipients included former MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry, actress Ashley Judd and CNN contributor Sally Kohn.
Addressing the crowd, Miller thanked everyone for their “support and love” and said the police profession is “hurting.”
“Everywhere is short,” he said. “Nobody wants to be a police officer anymore. Please hold us in your love, your prayers.”
When looking at how MRC talked about Gray’s death, the subsequent riots in Baltimore and the way the media covered those events, it is not surprising that they chose to honor the officers. In a blog post titled “Excusing the Rioters: How the Media Have Shifted the Blame in Baltimore,” MRC slammed CNN and MSNBC reporters for promoting their own liberal agenda.
“The Baltimore riots surrounding the death of Freddie Gray became a moment for liberal reporters and commentators to take the blame off those who destroyed cars, looted businesses, burned a church senior center and hurled objects at police officers,” MRC wrote. “Liberal journalists claimed the real culprits were police ‘terrorism,’ right-to-work states (for robbing Baltimore of jobs) and even local sports teams like the Ravens and Orioles.”
Gray’s Death Exposes Disturbing Pattern in Baltimore
While the officers involved in Gray’s death were not convicted of any crimes in court, and the riots did leave businesses and streets in shambles, the scrutiny Gray’s death placed on the city and its police department was not without reason. In August the Department of Justice released a detailed, 163-page report slamming the Baltimore Police Department and exposing its repeated unconstitutional stops, arrests and use of excessive force.
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake called for the investigation following Gray’s death.
“This pattern or practice is driven by systemic deficiencies in BPD’s policies, training, supervision and accountability structures that fail to equip officers with the tools they need to police effectively and within the bounds of the federal law,” according to the report.
The report calls the relationship between the BPD and the Baltimore community “broken”: “Officers seemed to view themselves as controlling the city rather than as a part of the city. Many others, including high ranking officers in the Department, view themselves as enforcing the will of the ‘silent majority.’”
The department’s inefficiencies are well known, the report adds. “Almost everyone who spoke to us — from current and former City leaders, BPD officers and command staff during ride-alongs and interviews, community members throughout the many neighborhoods of Baltimore, union representatives of all levels of officers in BPD, advocacy groups, and civic and religious leaders — agrees that BPD has significant problems that have undermined its efforts to police constitutionally and effectively,” the report states.
And Blacks do in fact serve as targets for the department, the report found: “BPD’s targeted policing of certain Baltimore neighborhoods with minimal oversight or accountability disproportionately harms African-American residents.”
Although Gray’s death could not legally be attributed to an intentional “rough ride,” the practice is not unheard of in the city. A Baltimore Sun investigation last year reported that, between June 2012 and April 2015, Baltimore City Detention Center turned away nearly 2,600 people in custody for having health and medical issues. Intake officers saw injuries including “fractured bones, facial trauma and hypertension. Of the detainees denied entry, 123 had visible head injuries, the third most common medical problem cited by jail officials, records show,” the paper wrote.