The city of Baltimore has reached a $6.4 million settlement with the family of Freddie Gray—the young black man who was brutally injured while in police custody back in April. Gray’s spine was nearly severed and his voice box crushed, which the officers claimed were self-inflicted wounds. Gray died in the hospital a week later.
The settlement is one of the largest regarding police misconduct in recent years. The family of Eric Garner, who passed after being placed in a choke hold by an officer in Staten Island, was awarded $5.9 million.
Despite the large sum, does simply handing money to a family that will grieve for a lifetime mean that justice has been achieved. There is much controversy surrounding this particular settlement in regards to the seemingly irreparable relationship between law enforcement and black men and women in this country. With the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice and more, much of society has lost faith in their authoritative powers.
The settlement comes just two days before the hearing for the six officers that have been charged with second-degree assault, misconduct in office, and reckless endangerment in the death of Gray. However, the settlement was actually agreed upon before Gray’s family even filed for a lawsuit, which has raised some serious eyebrows.
Despite Mayor Rawlings-Blake assuring that the settlement was not an indication of some premeditated decision in the fate of the officers, some argue that the move was “ridiculous,” specifically president of the Baltimore Fraternal Order of Police, Gene Ryan.
University of Pittsburgh law professor David Harris shares a similar sentiment claiming that the settlement will have an unfair effect on the trial. Harris said, “If I was an attorney for a defendant, I’d be revising my motion right now to say the settlement was made to persuade the jury pool that the officers did something wrong.”
On the other side of the argument, many believe that this was a necessary step in repairing the relationships between law enforcement and society, but this view does not come without rebuttal.
John Jay College professor Eugene O’Donnell argues that paying someone money is not the answer to solving a social issue that continues to worsen. Without a strict analysis of the problems at hand, there is no resolution and paying people off will just be a temporary fix until the next incident.