Roland Martin talks to Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake about her decision to call the DOJ to investigate the Baltimore Police Department in the wake of the death of Freddie Gray.
“I made the call because I’m committed to reform in the Baltimore Police Department. Under my leadership we’ve taken a number of measures to change things in the police department,” Rawlings-Blake said.
Criticism on Marilyn Mosby’s charges against the six officers:
“It’s not my call. It’s up to the public to judge. While the community has been very clear that they want justice for Freddie Gray, they also want police reform.”
Click the link above to hear the entire interview or read it below:
TOM JOYNER: From Washington, D.C. with a special report this morning, Roland Martin interviewing the Mayor of Baltimore. Good morning, Roland.
ROLAND MARTIN: Tom and Sybil, good morning. Baltimore, Maryland’s Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has been very much in the news for the past couple of weeks obviously with the developments taking place in Baltimore, the death of Freddie Gray, of course, the subsequent reaction, uprising from residents. And so we are talking to her this morning, Mayor Rawlings-Blake, how are you?
STEPHANIE RAWLINGS BLAKE: I’m good. How are you, Roland?
ROLAND MARTIN: I’m doing great. I want to start off this way. The news is coming out that the Department of Justice today will announce that they are accepting your invitation to investigate the Baltimore Police Department and their practices. Why did you make the call to want to bring the DOJ in?
STEPHANIE RAWLINGS BLAKE: I made the call because I’m committed to reform in the Baltimore City Police Department. And the challenge that so many people relate to this, to this discussion into this work, but under my leadership we’ve taken a number of steps to change the culture and the practice of the department. Under my leadership as Mayor we’ve had the first ever strategic plan for the police department, the Wasserman Report, which paved the way for better policy and practices. I’ve also dismantled a divided crime impact section, which was a target of repeated citizen complaint of harassment and excessive use of force. That section was treated under the previous administration. It became clear to me as mayor that while the crime numbers were down the complaints from the community were up and I had to do something about it. We also, I asked the Department of Justice to come in and work with us on collaborative reform. And when I thought we needed additional tools I asked the Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, for a Patterson Practices Investigation. I’m committed to getting this right. And my hope is that people around the country who also want police reform understand that this work takes time. It takes leadership. It is not something that, you know, we certainly didn’t get to this place overnight.
ROLAND MARTIN: Right.
STEPHANIE RAWLINGS BLAKE: And we’re not going to get to it overnight.
ROLAND MARTIN: We are seeing many folks criticize prosecutor Marilyn Mosby for filing charges against the police. Many believe that she overcharged. Do you believe that her investigation was too quick? Or do you believe that she made the right call for the community to deal with these six officers when it comes to the death of Freddie Gray?
STEPHANIE RAWLINGS BLAKE: At the end of the day that’s really not my call. That is up to the public and the residents of Baltimore to judge. The commitment that I made was that I ordered the police department to do everything that they could to cooperate with the investigation, to give all information, to cooperate with all questions and to make sure that we reach the deadline that the commissioner put to get the information to the safety training by May the 1st. And we exceeded that deadline. Now it is in her hands to handle, you know, the prosecution of the case. I will say that while the community has been very clear that we want justice for Freddie Gray it’s also been clear that they want police reforms. And that’s why I think the Patterson Practices Review, the civil rights review by the Department of Justice is important because it will insure sustainable change in our police department. And (00:03:48) as well.
ROLAND MARTIN: It has been an extremely tough couple of weeks for you. You have faced withering criticism, comments made dealing with thugs, people talking about leadership, cops not being able to respond fast enough, bringing the National Guard in. Looking at this have you looked at it and said; you know what, there were worse mistakes made, but also folks dealing with a very tough situation when you’re the mayor. You’re trying to balance so many different pieces to this very difficult puzzle.
STEPHANIE RAWLINGS BLAKE: So with respect to the thug comment, I apologized on numerous occasions. It was said out of anger. And I could not have been clearer when I expressed in my apology that it was a very poor choice of words, that in the heat of the moment that really didn’t speak to my heart, nor did it speak to the needs of our community. It was a distraction when people were focusing on one word instead of focusing on what was going on in our communities. And I certainly regret making that comment. With respect to the response, you know, there are always armchair quarterbacks, but this is what I know for sure, we made the best decisions that were possible with the information that we had at that time. Hindsight is not one of those. I’m very comfortable with those, very comfortable and confident about those decisions. Did I want to see our, you know, the looting and the rioting? Absolutely not. Did we work to garner resources every step of the way to meet the changing conditions on the ground? Absolutely we did. When it was clear that we needed the additional resources of the National Guard that I make that call? Unequivocally and without hesitation. But I think it is easy when you are not in the position of leadership, and have never been, to armchair quarter and second guess, but I’ll leave that for the pundits and everyone else. I’m very confident in the decisions that we made.
ROLAND MARTIN: It’s always difficult to make such decisions, but also how do you get people to believe in trusting the police in Baltimore? Although the DOJ, they will do their part, are you telling police there needs to be some type of different outreach in terms of being able to get more folks out on the streets talking to the community so there’s a better relationship between the police and the people? What are you telling today to do to change that relationship?
STEPHANIE RAWLINGS BLAKE: Well, it’s not just today, this is the work I’ve been doing for four years focusing on the community and police, and that’s why I brought Commissioner Batts to Baltimore, he’s a reformer and someone that believes like I do in the power of the relationship between the community and police. And we’ve been working on repairing that relationship, you know, before Ferguson, before all of this stuff. We were in the community trying to repair this relationship. We’ve had forums in communities in every police district, including one that was dedicated just to young people so we could try to figure out what we can do to strengthen that relationship. We’ve instituted new training to improve the relationship between the community and police. And I will say that there’s clearly a lot of work to do after this incident. There is a lot of – tempers have flared, there’s a lot of distrust, there’s a lot of hurt on both sides from the community. In some areas they were very hurt, very disrespected. And the police feel the same way. I met with the community, some community leaders downtown yesterday, and they just know that we have to work on reconciliation if we’re going to have a say for Baltimore. And that’s my focus.
ROLAND MARTIN: Will there be a reconciliation commission? Will you have public hearings across Baltimore to allow people to tell their stories? They’re very much like the healing that took place out of South Africa coming out of apartheid. Two different issues there, but there’s tremendous pain that I felt when I was there Tuesday for our town hall on TV1.
STEPHANIE RAWLINGS BLAKE: Mm-hmm. So we absolutely need to work on the issues of reconciliation. And my hope is, my one Baltimore initiative, where we are identifying our short term, midterm and long term systemic issues that this reconciliation is one of those areas where we can focus and we can heal.
ROLAND MARTIN: Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, we certainly appreciate you coming on the Tom Joyner Morning Show. Thanks a lot.
TOM JOYNER: We support you. We support you, Mayor.
STEPHANIE RAWLINGS BLAKE: Thank you so much. Thank you.
SYBIL WILKES: Baltimore strong.
TOM JOYNER: Yes.
STEPHANIE RAWLINGS BLAKE: Thank you.
TOM JOYNER: We support you.
STEPHANIE RAWLINGS BLAKE: I appreciate it.
SYBIL WILKES: Good job, Roland.
TOM JOYNER: And Marilyn Mosby too. I support her too.