On Wednesday afternoon, the trial of Baltimore Police Officer William G. Porter concluded with a hung jury. The 12-person jury could not agree in its deliberations, and the judge declared a mistrial. Porter had been charged with involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, reckless endangerment, and misconduct in office following the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray in police custody back in April. The Baltimore police department responded shortly after the mistrial was announced, stating that it has respect for the criminal justice process.
Gray suffered a severe spinal injury while riding in the back of a police escort van with his arms and legs shackled but no seat belt on. In a press conference on Wednesday, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis joined together to ask residents to respect the outcome of the judicial process. Although his comments mostly focused around the presence of protesters outside the courthouse, regarding the mistrial itself, Davis said:
We, too, respect the criminal justice process, and we exist to protect it. ... My reaction is that [the mistrial] is part of the process of this great American criminal justice process. Many Americans think it's imperfect ... and maybe it is imperfect, but it sure beats what comes in second. The process is ongoing, and I think we have to be consistent, measured, and thoughtful as we go forward.
The Baltimore police department has been preparing for the verdict in Porter's case for the past week. On Saturday, The Baltimore Sun reported that the department had canceled all leave for this week in order to ensure that there would be plenty of officers on duty in case there's any fallout from the verdict. According to the report, all sworn personnel will be assigned to 12-hour shifts throughout the week.
The preparation makes sense, as large riots broke out around the city in April following Gray's death. Fires, looting, and other violence at that time prompted the Baltimore mayor to impose a curfew for several days and the Maryland governor to declare a state of emergency and deploy the National Guard. The Baltimore riots quickly became reminiscent of similar scenarios in Ferguson, Missouri, following the death of Michael Brown and the grand jury's decision not to indict the shooting officer, Darren Wilson.
Because of this, Commissioner Davis urged protesters to stay calm and protest in a peaceful way. He stressed that the police department would protect the rights of Americans who want to peacefully demonstrate, while being clear that demonstrators who became violent toward people or property "lose the ability" to call themselves protesters. He said:
We respect the right of Americans to protest. Protestors who are lawfully assembled have a friend in the Baltimore Police Department. We are here to serve as peacekeepers. We respect the right to protest, we respect the protestors ... We will do everything we can to afford them the ability to protest in this city.
Now that Porter will face a retrial, the Baltimore police department will be preparing for his and the other five trials of the officers involved in Gray's death. Back in May, Porter was placed on unpaid leave, along with the other five officers, when it was announced that he would be charged in Gray's death. According to Davis, he remains suspended without pay.