*The intent may have been to restore peace in Baltimore following the uproar over the death of Freddie Gray, but the $6.4 million settlement reached in the case has struck a very sour note with the president of the police union, who labeled the deal “obscene.”
“I want to extend my most sincere condolences to the family of Freddie Gray,” Rawlings-Blake said. “I hope that this settlement will bring some measure of closure to his family and his friends.”
Emphasizing that the settlement only covers Baltimore, the city’s police department and the police officers mentioned in the wrongful death claims brought up by Gray’s family, Rawlings-Blake made sure to mention that the settlement has no connection to criminal proceedings that involve the six officers charged in connection with Gray’s death.
“The purpose of the civil settlement is to bring an important measure of closure to the Gray family, to the community and to the city,” Rawlings-Blake said after the vote. “And and to avoid years and years of protracted civil litigation.”
News of the settlement marks the latest development in the aftermath of Gray’s death. The 25-year-old’s encounter with authorities generated headlines after he died a week after suffering a severe spinal injury during or immediately after his arrest in a high-crime area of Baltimore in April.
An autopsy report revealed Gray died of a “high-energy injury” that likely happened when the police van suddenly slowed down, USA Today noted.
The circumstances regarding Gray’s death while in police custody ignited a violent reaction in Baltimore as well as nationwide protests. The death of Gray, coupled with investigations following the tragedy, eventually led to the firing of Police Commissioner Anthony Batts.
The settlement earned a thumbs-up from Gray family lawyer Billy Murphy, who stated that it “represents civil justice” and will have a calming impact on the city.
“I thank you and your colleagues for your leadership in making sure Freddie Gray did not die in vain,” said Murphy, who thanked the city on behalf of the family for pushing to equip all officers with body cameras. A pilot program is set to start soon in Gray’s neighborhood, Rawlings-Blake.
Despite Rawlings-Blake’s intentions and the family’s approval, Fraternal Order of Police president Gene Ryan viewed the settlement differently as he urged the Board of Estimates to reject it. In his eyes, the settlement is a negative that would damage efforts to return Baltimore to “pre-riot normalcy” as well as the relationship between the city and its police officers.
“To suggest that there is any reason to settle prior to the adjudication of the pending criminal cases is obscene,” an angry Ryan told USA Today.
For Rawlings-Blake, Ryan’s comments left her “baffled.”
“All this settlement does is remove civil liability from the six officers. It ensures that the end of the criminal trial is the end (of litigation) for those officers. … There will be closure,” Rawlings-Blake said Wednesday (Sept. 9), adding that if she were Ryan, she would be thankful for the deal.
For the officers at the center of Gray’s case, Rawlings Blake mentioned that they have the right to opt out of the settlement and take their chances in civil court.