Dean Donald B. Tobin calls the death tragic and says, “It has focused attention on years of inequality of opportunity, injustice, and hopelessness for many in the city.” As to the unrest, Tobin adds, “There was a lot of pride in the way that people were seeking justice and change in a peaceful way, so we were all devastated when that process broke down.”
According to Professor Renée Hutchins, the co-director of the Clinical Law Program, Freddie Gray’s story started more than 40 years ago. “You need to go at least that far back to understand the frustrations in the community,” she says. Hutchins, who once prosecuted street crime in Washington, D.C., and did criminal defense work in New York City and Atlanta, points out that the policing methodology that led to Gray’s arrest has roots in a 1968 Supreme Court case, Terry v. Ohio, which for the first time allowed police officers to stop a citizen without probable cause for an arrest, providing that an officer has reasonable suspicion to justify the stop. Not long after Terry came the War on Drugs. “The confluence of those two events,” says Hutchins, “led to very negative consequences for people who happened to be black and brown”—consequences such as mass incarceration and what many see as routine police harassment.
Terry enabled “broken windows” policing, a method that targets minor quality-of-life infractions and rewards police officers making stops and arrests. Professor Michael Greenberger, who in the late 1990s worked with police officials nationwide as a top advisor to then-Attorney General Janet Reno, believes that many of those arrests are unnecessary. In his view, broken windows policing, the dominant model for the past 15 years, lowers crime in the short run, but alienates many citizens from police, with terrible long-term ramifications. It also “overburdens the system,” notes Professor Susan Leviton ’72. “You can’t ensure that the 500 most violent offenders are in secure detention if you are arresting and locking up all the nonviolent folks standing on the corner.”
Events in Baltimore, Cleveland, New York, Missouri, and elsewhere have revived interest in an alternative model called community policing, in which officers embed in neighborhoods, walking beats, attending community meetings, organizing sports leagues and after-school programs, and working with neighbors to lower crime. Community policing builds trust instead of mistrust, Greenberger says, adding that officers in cities that use the broken windows model never learn basic policing skills. Like many of the officers recently caught on video abusing citizens, he says, they “don’t know anger management, they don’t know how to relate to people, they don’t know how to deal with people who’ve been stopped and don’t behave the way they want them to.”
May 2, 2015 - Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images
Our goal is to get our student body out there and fully engaged. Granted, there is no one organization, no one law school, no one community group that can solve problems that are so multi-layered. Partnerships and collaborations are the key. It will take enormous energy and skill and dedication. That said, law students have incredible energy and drive, and they search for justice, and they bring compassion.
And that counts for a lot.
Professor & Co-Director,
Clinical Law Program
UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND
FRANCIS KING CAREY SCHOOL OF LAW 500 W. Baltimore St. Baltimore, MD 21201