The trial of Officer William Porter, the first Baltimore Police officer to be tried for the death of African American Freddie Gray on April 19 has rekindled debates on the distrust between the police force and the black community across the country.
An article published on CNN.com December 5 stated that Freddie Gray informed an officer that he needed medical attention while he was shackled in a police van after his arrest on a Chicago road on April 12. Officers went ahead to make several stops for unknown reasons on the trip to the hospital where he died several days later from injuries sustained while he was in the van.
Street protests followed in Baltimore. His death was ruled to be a homicide, leading to the arrest of Officer Porter and five others. Porter pleaded not guilty to manslaughter, reckless endangerment, and assault charges last Monday. 75 people turned up for jury selection on Monday.
The Washington Post reported on April 28 that the distrust between law enforcement officials and the African American community is based on the reputation of the police force. An investigation carried out by The Baltimore Sun found out that police settled with victims claiming abuse 100 times over a four-year period.
The Washington Post also reported that a poll conducted by NBC News/Marist in December on people's attitudes towards the police force found that more than 50 percent of whites polled felt that the police treated both whites and blacks equally while only 12 percent of black in the Baltimore area felt more than confident that the police treated both races equally.
Another survey conducted by Gallup in the same month indicated that the majority of white people surveyed had great confidence in the police force while less than a quarter of blacks surveyed expressed a great deal of confidence in the police force.
The social media has become the avenue through which people post videos that seem to contradict law enforcement accounts of events in deaths following arrests of blacks, leading to distrust between the African-American community and the police. In one recent case in Chicago, a video was released showing that police officer Jason Van Dyke shot 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 17 times in October 2014. McDonald was armed with a small knife at the time of the shooting on a city road.
The police department report indicated that McDonald had threatened to use the knife against Officer Dyke. Other policemen said in recorded statements that McDonald attempted to move towards Dyke after he was shot.
The police department refused to release a Burger King video that captured the incident until a judge ordered the department to do so after a freelance journalist took the matter to court under the free information act. As a result, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel fired the city's Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy.
On Sunday, Scott Ando, an officer in charge of the city's Independent Police Review Authority, stepped down. The Chicago Tribune reported that since 2007, only two out of 409 allegations of excessive use of force by police in the city have resulted in credible investigations.