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Black Officers Rally Around Cop Accused in Death of Freddie Gray

Advocates for Sgt. Alicia White say racism within the department contributed to charges against her.

See The Real News Network’s website for both earlier in-depth reporting and current coverage of events in Baltimore, where The Real News Network studios are located.


STEPHEN JANIS, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, TRNN: The controversy over charges against six officers in relation to the killing of Freddie Gray while in police custody continued today as the organization representing black officers defended one of the six, Sergeant Alicia White, while also accusing the department she served as being racially biased.

LISA ROBINSON, VICE PRESIDENT, VANGUARD FOR JUSTICE: We recognize that their concerns are legitimate concerns. We recognize they are legitimate, because we face those same sorts of issues within the Baltimore Police Department.

JANIS: In fact, Alicia White’s lawyer Ivan Bates said the charges against his client were a culmination of systemic inequalities within the Baltimore Police Department which continues today.

IVAN BATES, WHITE’S ATTORNEY: How on earth can we as a society change if we only have one female who’s Lieutenant Colonel in the police department of Baltimore City? How on earth can we change if we have one African-American female who’s a Major? This is what we need to understand, that it is the policies, practices, and procedures that have placed us in this situation.

JANIS: The press conference was called by the Vanguard for Justice, an organization which represents black officers on the Baltimore Police Department, and appeared to have dual purposes. One, to advocate for White’s innocence.

TONY GARCIA, WHITE’S ATTORNEY: When this trial is completed and all the evidence is laid bare, you’re going to see that perhaps justice wasn’t the only thing the State’s Attorney was attempting to accomplish here.

JANIS: But also to align the charges against her with efforts to address inequalities within the department she served.

KENNETH BUTLER, PRESIDENT, VANGUARD FOR JUSTICE: We look forward to being interviewed and working with the Department of Justice, because we want to uncover and correct some policies and practices that are within this agency.

JANIS: To that end, all agreed White was an exemplary officer, saying she had nothing to do with Freddie Gray’s death.

BARBARA JACKSON, FRANKFORD NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION: And we all know Alicia as a dedicated individual. One of the better police officers we have ever met.

JANIS: Even though she has been charged with manslaughter because prosecutors allege she checked on Gray during his fatal ride in a police van. In fact, her lawyers admitted today that they had not seen the evidence against her.

BATES: We need to see the evidence before any of us can have any of the answers.

JANIS: Missing from the discussion was any mention of the two other African-American officers who have also been charged with manslaughter. Still, even with all the not-so-subtle critiques of the city’s criminal justice system as racially biased, White’s defender stopped short of calling the charges against her racially motivated. Instead, they say what happened to Freddie Gray and even White was an inevitable outcome from a criminal justice system where inequality has been allowed to fester.

BATES: Alicia White is your sister, she’s your cousin, she’s your friend, she’s your neighbor. She is Baltimore City.

JANIS: Reporting from Baltimore, Stephen Janis for The Real News Network.

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