Today, the Department of Justice announced that it has officially opened an investigation of Freddie Gray’s death to determine whether any “prosecutable civil rights violation occurred.”  The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (“LDF”) applauds this decision and renews its call for transparency from local law enforcement.

According to the Baltimore Police Department’s website, Mr. Gray’s death is the most recent in a series of five in-custody deaths since 2013.  “Five in-custody deaths in two years is alarming and warrants an independent and thorough investigation of Mr. Gray’s death by the Department of Justice ,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, LDF’s President and Director-Counsel.  “The Baltimore Police Department must promptly provide answers to key questions surrounding his death. It’s astonishing that a week after Mr. Gray’s arrest we still do not fully understand the nature of the encounter that resulted in the arrest.”  

LDF urges Baltimore City officials to continue efforts to:  (1) require police officers to use body-worn cameras and (2) collect and publicly disseminate information about use-of-force incidents in a timely manner.  “The lack of information about how Mr. Gray was fatally injured underscores the need for police body-worn cameras,” said Monique Dixon, Senior Policy Counsel for Criminal Justice at LDF. “But for the individual who videotaped a portion of Mr. Gray’s arrest, the public would know even less about what happened.”  Additionally, LDF continues to demand that all police departments adopt and implement scenario-based training on bias-free policing, the appropriate use of force, and de-escalation tactics, as well as accountability systems to monitor and enforce this training.