Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts Talks Freddie Gray's Death With CNN In His First Revealing Interview — VIDEO
In his first interview since the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts talked about Gray's controversial death with CNN Tuesday, admitting that he was surprised by the officer charges that followed. More importantly, he emphasized, it's up to law enforcement to help mend the wounds Gray's death left on the city. In acknowledging the police's role in improving trust with the community, Batts hints at more harmonious times ahead. But first there's much work to be done.
Less than 24 hours after he turned in his team's investigation to State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby, she announced that the six officers involved in Gray's arrest would be charged. And he only found out about her decision 10 minutes before she announced it to the public in a televised press conference. Ahead of the live event, she called Batts and let him know that his officers were being charged with manslaughter and second-degree murder. His reaction? "I was probably surprised," Batts told CNN's Evan Perez.
As for why those charges were brought on his officers, Batts offers his own theories that may or may not be an indirect swipe at Mosby.
I think that the State's Attorney was very focused on being independent in this particular investigation, and she didn't want to be seen connected to the police organization. So the communication was limited as compared to what I'm used to.
If it had been up to Batts, according to CNN, he would have liked more notice to warn his officers of Mosby's decision in case it sparked a bad reaction on the streets.
Batts also opened up about his team's investigation, which he told CNN involved 45 to 50 officers, a much bigger team than Mosby's. He explained that his team didn't have the luxury to just focus on what happened inside of that van; they also had to trace everything that the officers did that day and try and fill in the gaps.
But perhaps what resonated the most from Batts' interview were his comments on the community and how law enforcement plays a role in it. He acknowledged to Perez that it is up to the officers to start mending the strained relationship.
The community needs to hear that. The community needs to hear from us that we haven't been part of the solution, and now we have to evolve. Now we have to change.
He also commented on the need to rebuild the communities themselves, where many African-American residents don't receive sufficient educational opportunities. Batts said that law enforcement has already started working towards that goal, mentioning an existing mentorship program in which officers bring meals and play sports with inner-city kids. However, he also acknowledged that they have a long way to go.
It's not going to be an overnight thing. ... This isn't going to be a short journey. You can see the distrust that's out there, and we have to find inroads to sit down with people — to show care, to show empathy.
Images: CNN, Getty Images (2)