The Baltimore police officer, Sgt Alicia White who was charged in the death of Freddie Gray says she can’t wait to go back to her job.
One of the six Baltimore cops charged in the 2015 death of Freddie Gray, and the first to speak publicly, says she’s eager to resume her duties and serve the city where she was born and raised, ABC News reports.
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Sgt. Alicia White has been on paid administrative duty since returning to work more than three months ago. She’s still awaiting the internal review needed to clear her return to patrol duty, she told ABC Baltimore affiliate WMAR-TV.
As a newly minted sergeant at the time of Gray’s death from injuries he suffered in police custody, White said she was “blindsided” and “devastated” when she heard the prosecuting attorney read her name and the charges against her, which included involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, misconduct in office and reckless endangerment. They were all eventually dismissed.
“I didn’t see that coming at all,” she told WMAR. “I was devastated. I broke down and started crying. It was hard. It was a hard pill to swallow.“
White, 30, said the mug shot taken after her indictment has been her identity for the past 18 months and defined her public image.
“Having to walk and people look at you and figure that’s who you are. … I knew … that wasn’t me,” she said.
After Gray’s death on April 19, 2015, White said she prayed for his family and their loss and watched riots break out in Baltimore. She said she attends church just blocks from where Gray was arrested, where his legacy still looms.
White said the personal stress after Gray’s death took an emotional and physical toll that derailed her up-and-coming career. Her engagement also ended as a result of the charges, she told WMAR.
White was unemployed — suspended without pay — for more than a year while she awaited trial. She said she leans on her faith and desire to return to policing the streets of her hometown.
The six Baltimore police officers were indicted in May 2015. The charges were dismissed in July against three of the officers, including White, and the three other officers were acquitted of all charges. The officers returned to work in paid administrative positions in late-July.
Freddie Gray died of a severe spinal injury one week after he fell into a coma while being transported in a police van. His death sparked violent protests in Baltimore.
Before being charged with manslaughter and other counts in Gray’s death, White was likely to be described by family and friends as the Catholic school student from West Baltimore or the ardent churchgoer, according to The Baltimore Sun. And to many residents and co-workers, she was the community resource officer who stayed late at the children’s center in her district or the young sergeant who, with just five years on the force, was already rising through the ranks.
She had never been suspended by the Police Department for anything prior to the Gray case.
Her attorney, Ivan Bates, said White’s interaction with Gray lasted all of 15 to 20 seconds, and suggests she may have been swept up with the other charged officers for political reasons.
“I don’t understand why on earth she was charged; I’ve never understood why she was charged,” Bates said. “Maybe from some standpoint you have three black officers, you have three white officers. Or maybe you wanted to make sure you charged a woman. Maybe you wanted to charge a black woman.”
Prosecutors declined to be interviewed but have maintained that White and the other officers failed to take necessary action that could have saved Gray’s life. Prosecutors say they dropped White’s case along with two others, following a judge’s acquittal of three of the defendants, only because they believe the judicial system was stacked against them.
“These charges have always been about the pursuit of justice for an innocent 25-year-old man who lost his life in the custody of the police,” said Rochelle Ritchie, a spokeswoman for the state’s attorney’s office.
This is yet another manifestation of systematic racism in our country. Cops always have their way out in cases like this; it is almost becoming an accepted norm. But we must continue to stand against such unfair practices. Freddie Gray died in a most suspicious way just like many other Black people who have mysteriously lost their lives in police custody; hence there is a need for thorough investigation and fair trial.