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Baltimore police officers Nero, Miller accept discipline in Freddie Gray case

Baltimore police officers Nero, Miller accept discipline in Freddie Gray case

 

 

Two Baltimore police officers have accepted “minor disciplinary action” for their involvement in the 2015 arrest of Freddie Gray rather than argue their cases before departmental trial boards, a police union attorney confirmed Tuesday.

The discipline is the first punishment against officers in the case after local prosecutors failed to secure criminal convictions and federal prosecutors declined to bring charges.

It also clears the way for the officers, who were involved in the initial chase and arrest of Gray, to remain on the force.

Officers Garrett Miller and Edward Nero “believe they did not violate any of the policies, procedures or practices of the Baltimore Police Department” but “accepted the disciplinary action to move on from this unfortunate incident and continue their careers,” said attorney Michael Davey, with the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3.

 

“The most important factor in deciding to accept the disciplinary action was to ensure they continue their employment with the Baltimore Police Department so they can support themselves and their families,” Davey said.

Davey would not disclose what violations were alleged by the department or the punishments the officers accepted. He said Miller, 28, is back to full-time duty working in the Police Department’s marine unit, and Nero, 31, is back to full-time work in the aviation unit.

The Baltimore Sun reported previously that Nero and Miller faced five days’ suspension without pay.

Gray died in police custody in April 2015. His death set off protests; on the day he was buried, Baltimore erupted in riots, arson and looting.

Three other officers — Officer Caesar Goodson, Lt. Brian Rice and Sgt. Alicia White — still face trial boards, and possible termination. Goodson is scheduled to go to trial Oct. 30, followed by Rice on Nov. 13 and White on Dec. 5.

But those dates are now in question after the officers’ attorneys filed a joint motion in Baltimore Circuit Court on Tuesday asking to delay their trial boards in light of an undisclosed meeting they allege Baltimore police officials had with police commanders from other agencies who have been identified as potential trial board chairs.

The officers’ attorneys say city officials met inappropriately with the Prince George’s County and Maryland State Police commanders and provided them with “some form of training despite their extensive experience in chairing administrative hearing boards” for their own agencies.

The outside commanders were identified as Capt. Cynthia Ruff and Majors Irene Burks and Robert Clark from Prince George’s County and Capt. Peter Spaulding of the Maryland State Police. Burks and Spaulding are the “permanent chairpersons” for trial boards in their own jurisdictions, the officers’ attorneys said.

By holding the undisclosed training, the attorneys say, the Baltimore Police Department “has now brought into question the fairness of any administrative hearing board” involving the above commanders, and those commanders should be excluded from the process.

Police spokesman T.J. Smith said police “hope to have the situation resolved quickly.”

Smith declined to comment on the decisions of Nero and Miller to forgo trial boards and accept punishment, citing laws protecting personnel information. Andre Davis, the city solicitor, also declined to comment.

The punishments are the result of outside reviews of their actions in relation to departmental policies, conducted by police departments in Montgomery and Howard counties.

Those agencies have refused to address their findings, and have rejected requests by The Sun under the Maryland Public Information Act for documentation from their investigations.

Miller is the officer who initially arrested Gray for carrying a knife in West Baltimore on the morning of April 12, 2015. Nero arrived at the scene shortly after and helped place Gray in the back of a police transport van. Gray was handcuffed and shackled but not restrained with a seat belt.

According to local prosecutors and medical examiners, Gray suffered a severe spinal cord injury in the back of the van. He died a week later.

Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby brought criminal charges against Miller, Nero, Goodson, Rice, White and Officer William Porter.

After Goodson, Rice and Nero were acquitted, Mosby dropped the charges against the rest.

The U.S. Department of Justice investigated and declined to file federal criminal civil rights charges.

The city paid Gray’s family $6.4 million to avoid civil litigation.

If the trial boards for Goodson, Rice and White proceed as scheduled, they will be open to the public. They will take place at the University of Baltimore’s Learning Commons, university president Kurt Schmoke said Tuesday.

“Doing it is kind of a service to the department and to the community,” Schmoke said. “We believe that this is an appropriate setting so that the public has an opportunity to see those hearings.”

Baltimore Sun reporter Justin Fenton contributed to this article.

krector@baltsun.com

twitter.com/rectorsun

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Bilal Ali

October 11th, 2017

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