An internal police department trial declared Lieutenant Brian Rice not guilty of various administrative charges in the death of Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old who died after Baltimore officers allegedly subjected him to a punitive “rough ride” in the back of a police van in 2015.
Rice was the highest-ranking Baltimore Police Department official who could have been held accountable for Gray’s death in custody. He was acquitted of criminal homicide charges in the case last year. Criminal cases against the five officers under Rice’s supervision were all dismissed or dropped following his acquittal in court.
Friday’s verdict from the internal police board leaves just one officer, Sgt. Alicia White, still to face internal rebuke. Her trial is set to begin on December 5. Two of the other officers involved “chose not to fight the charges and accepted minor discipline” from the board, according to the Baltimore Sun.
Gray died of a broken neck. Officers allegedly beat him with fists and batons during his arrest. Police officials acknowledge the officers never buckled Gray into his seat in the back of a police van after putting him into it with his hands and feet cuffed. Rather than driving directly to the station, the cops took Gray on a strange curlicue route. By the time they opened the doors again, Gray was not breathing. Records indicate officers stopped about a half-dozen separate times on the drive back to the Western District station house, but only called for medical assistance after removing Gray from the van and discovering he no longer had a pulse.
In the open-secret jargon of the police industry, this is called giving a suspect a “rough ride,” “nickel ride,” or “joyride.” Like “contempt of cop,” the colloquial explanation cops offer for legally unjustified arrests to punish someone for back-talk or other perceived disrespect, police officialdom broadly denies that “rough rides” occur. A police union official from Maryland told ThinkProgress in 2015 that he’d never heard of the practice.
Months before the administrative trials began inside the Baltimore Police Department, and months after the criminal cases against the officers had fallen apart, President Donald Trump went out of his way to encourage cops to rough up suspects in custody. The audience, made up of New York officers whose department is under investigation for civil rights violations, laughed.