American Proscenium

Advancing the Conversation in Baltimore

Agents of the Department of Justice wasted little time launching a civil-rights investigation into the death of Freddie Gray.  In a press release, Attorney General Loretta Lynch explained that “Department officials heard from residents about concerns regarding the Baltimore Police Department and the lack of trust they feel exists between the police and the community.”

Lynch promised to bring “the full resources of the Department of Justice to bear in . . . investigating the wrongdoing.”  She made this statement several days before state charges were filed against police officers and before any authority had completed an investigation.  So, the attorney general of the United States made a simple conclusion: Black man dead, white wrongdoing to blame.  Of course, it might very well turn out that one or more of the officers is guilty of unlawful conduct—maybe even homicide.  But neither we nor the attorney general, back in late April when the statement was issued, had enough information to make such a bold assertion.

The rhetoric and quick federal involvement could mislead one into believing that Baltimore is run by a reincarnation of Bull Connor and that some outside entity must stand up for the rights of disenfranchised black folks.  Baltimore, of course, is a majority black city whose mayor and police commissioner are black.  The city council consists of 15...

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