Baltimore public officials have agreed to pay out a 6.4 million dollar wrongful death settlement to the family of Freddie Gray, pending approval from the city’s Board of Estimates. If the Board of Estimates approves the deal, the Gray family would be compensated 2.8 million dollars this fiscal year, and an additional 3.6 million dollars in the upcoming fiscal year.
In addition to paying out the monetary sum, the agreement also stipulated that Baltimore police officers must be equipped with body cameras to monitor their activity while they are on duty. This added provision was included to ensure better oversight over the Baltimore Police Department, and to better hold officers accountable for improper, abusive or unlawful behavior.
Gray died in police custody. The state medical examiner’s office ruled the death a homicide. He suffered a severe spinal injury, probably from “high-energy” impact while he was being transported. The six officers involved in his arrest and transport are all facing felony charges ranging in severity from second degree assault to second-degree depraved heart murder.
The proposed settlement agreement going before the Board of Estimates should not be interpreted as a judgment on the guilt or innocence of the officers facing trial. This settlement is being proposed solely because it is in the best interest of the city, and avoids costly and protracted litigation that would only make it more difficult for our city to heal and potentially cost taxpayers many millions more in damages.
The 6.4 million dollar settlement is larger than the 5.9 million dollars awarded to Eric Garner’s family in New York City, where Garner was choked to death by police officers. Both the Garner and Gray incidents have been critical flash points in sparking the “Black Lives Matter” protest movement.
No amount of money can heal the loss of a loved one. The Baltimore settlement agreement, however not only compensates the family of the deceased, it also mandates that the police department wear body cameras going forward. While this provision will be unlikely to end police brutality in the city, it is an important step in the right direction.