By Kamau High
Special to the NNPA News Service from The AFRO
BALTIMORE (NNPA) – The Vanguard Justice Society has voiced its support for Sgt. Alicia D. White and the other five officers implicated in the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody.
“The purpose of this press conference is to express our full support in reference to the officers that have recently been charged and one officer in particular, a Vanguard member, Sgt. Alicia White,” Ken Butler president of the non-profit group that advocates for minority police officers in Baltimore.
White was charged earlier this month with manslaughter, second-degree assault and misconduct in office. If convicted, she faces up to 20 years in prison. At a May 13 press conference at Baltimore Community College, Butler said Sgt. White was recruited into Vanguard out of the police academy and was mentored by the organization.
In addition to Vanguard members, Barbara Jackson, a community organizer, spoke of Sgt. White’s Christian faith and volunteer work. Two of her lawyers, Ivan Bates and Tony Garcia, of Bates & Garcia, also addressed the media.
Bates began by pointing out that according to State’s Attorney General Marilyn Mosby, Sgt. White had about 15 seconds of interaction with Freddie Gray and that Sgt. White never actually touched him.
Garcia also noted that Sgt. White was born and reared in Baltimore city as well as attended high school in Baltimore. “Alicia White is your sister, she’s your cousin, she’s your friend, she’s your neighbor,” Garcia said. “She is Baltimore city.”
The law firm of Bates & Garcia is known for suing the Baltimore Police Department for police brutality, including the Kollin Truss case, that involved a Baltimore police officer captured on video tape repeatedly punching Truss in the face.
Of the six officers charged in the Gray case, three of them – including Sgt. White – are Black.
Lisa Robinson, vice president of Vanguard, said the group is looking forward to speaking to the Department of Justice during their investigation of the Freddie Gray case and wants to bring up several issues themselves.
“Those include policies and procedures in terms of hiring, firing, disciplinary actions as well as promotions and transfers, policing strategies,” she said. “Our goal is also to look at the stop snitching culture. The stop snitching culture is prevalent on the streets of Baltimore as well as within the Baltimore Police Department.”
She added, “It is our hope that at the end of this process that Baltimore will have a better, safer police department and city for all the citizens of Baltimore.”
During a question-and-answer period, Garcia, one of Sgt. White’s lawyers criticized Marilyn Mosby, the State’s Attorney for Baltimore City. He said, “You’re going to see accuracy was sacrificed for speed. You’re going to see a ‘chuck and duck’ style of prosecution that is not fair or unbiased to anyone.” He added,” You’re going to see that Ms. White was steamrolled into this. She was at the wrong place at the wrong time and had nothing to do with this.”
Mosby’s press office did not return calls by AFRO press time. However she released a statement, May 5 that said, in part, “While the evidence we have obtained through our independent investigation does substantiate the elements of the charges filed, I refuse to litigate this case through the media.”
Bates, another White’s other attorney, said, “We’ve asked the state’s attorney numerous times to allow us to see the evidence and they haven’t. I guess for some reason the state feels that they have evidence that Ms. White didn’t do anything but before Ms. White got to the point to not do anything Ms. White would have to know that something needed to be done.”
Asked what Sgt. White had told them about her actions on the day of Freddie Gray’s arrest, Bates replied, “I can’t necessarily go into what the client has told us but let’s just say we feel very confident about our defense.”