It is hard to find a more transparent example of politically expedient "justice" than the rushed investigation and the knee jerk charges brought against six Baltimore police officers who were involved in the Freddie Gray arrest earlier this month.
It has become a simple, tragic formula: technology captures law enforcement in action; the footage, with uninformed color commentary, goes public and a social and mainstream media conviction ensues in near-real time. Political opportunists, grandstanders, and professional criminals -- many of whom have no real concern for the actual issues at hand -- show up to either rail in front of network cameras or loot and destroy property with relative impunity.
The State's Attorney prosecuting the Baltimore case, Marilyn Mosby, so badly mishandled the initial decision to charge these six officers that she will likely see her professional reputation shredded. And Ms.Mosby now stumbles into a new phase of her questionable case, one that calls on her to offer up more than contentious soundbites for TV cameras. She faces the difficult burden of actually proving a host of serious criminal charges against the six Baltimore officers.
Former Baltimore prosecutor Page Croyder, who spent more than 20 years in that role, recently wrote how Mosby's actions demonstrate either incompetence or unethical recklessness.
It's important to remember that the vast majority of police officers are hardworking men and women who are dedicated to serving the public.
Noted defense attorney Alan Dershowitz, along with several other legal experts and scholars have called Mosby's sweeping charges a broad overreach.
Mosby's lack of judgment in this matter cannot be ignored. Given her strident public statements promising justice for the Gray family, with no mention of justice for the accused, one would expect early motions for a change of venue for any trial. Already, defense requests to examine the knife possessed by Gray have been rebuffed, which will only make the issue grow rather than dissipate.
Sadly, the fallout from the Baltimore incident creates more than controversial news headlines. There is now a darker shadow of mistrust cast over all law officers who report for duty every day and face potentially life threatening situations with chilling regularity.
The weekend deaths of two Mississippi police officers and the recent death of a police officer in New York remind us just how dangerous a cop's job can be. Mississippi police officers Benjamin Deen and Liquori Tate were shot and killed while making a traffic stop. New York Police officer Brian Moore was killed after questioning an individual.
The recent attempted terrorist attack in Garland, Texas is another prime example of the skill, vigilance and heroism required for an officer to effectively do his job. A lone, off-duty traffic officer armed only with a handgun killed two would-be terrorists carrying high power weapons who were bent on inflicting mass carnage, presumably in the name of ISIS.
We have entered, or perhaps returned to, a new era in our country. One where the confluence of long-standing police practices, with their mandate to provide assistance to the public, have intersected with the white hot spotlight.
The reality is that police officers are routinely forced to make split second decisions in highly charged situations, often without all the information they may need, in order to protect the public.
Just this week prosecutors announced that a Madison, Wisconsin police officer will not face charges in connection with a fatal shooting. The prosecutor said the officer, “…did not have the ability to use non-lethal force during this incident, based on space and time considerations."
The law enforcement community has elevated the issue of the proper use of force and is calling for increased and improved training and resources for officers to be more even more effective. Integrating the use of body cameras in many localities should also help the police and the public they protect and serve.
Law enforcement officials from across the country are attending “Police Week" events this week in a national effort to honor and thank the people who protect and serve the public.
In 2014, 126 officers lost their lives in the line of duty. To date, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C. remembers the lives of over 20,000 local, state and federal officers who made the ultimate sacrifice for the safety and protection of our nation and its people.
Whatever the outcome of the Baltimore trial, it's important to remember that the vast majority of police officers are hardworking men and women who are dedicated to serving the public.
We cannot allow our police to become political punching bags, targets for political opportunists who often generate unwarranted criticism of the people who report for a difficult and dangerous job.
Ron Hosko is President of the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund, (LELDF) an organization that provides legal and financial support for police wrongly accused of crimes. He retired as assistant director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in April 2014, where he was responsible for the entire criminal division of the agency. He spent more than 30 years in the law enforcement, working in senior roles in high crime cities such as Chicago, Philadelphia and New York City.