Trial Raises Questions About Baltimore Cops, Internal Probes - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Trial Raises Questions About Baltimore Cops, Internal Probes

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Keith Davis was acquitted of 14 charges relating to a robbery that relied on police testimony but found guilty of possessing a weapon. (Photo credit: Keith Davis) Keith Davis was acquitted of 14 charges relating to a robbery that relied on police testimony but found guilty of possessing a weapon. (Photo credit: Keith Davis)

BALTIMORE (AP)- In the tense summer that followed Freddie Gray's death, Baltimore police vowed to vigorously investigate when officers used force in the field. But 10 months later, a trial for a man who was shot by police has raised questions about whether the department is following its own policies when investigating officers.
    
This month, Keith Davis, 25, went on trial after police said he robbed a driver and ran from police into a dark parking garage. Prosecutors said he brandished a firearm and officers fired more than 40 rounds when they felt threatened, striking Davis in the face. The jury convicted Davis on only a gun charge.
    
Several officers involved in the shooting told jurors that they had not been called to give statements after firing their weapons, nor had they written reports that the department's general orders require.
    
"Police unload (guns) into a garage with three civilians and no one bothered to ask them anything. The law requires a use of force report. There's no firearm discharge report. There's no incident report. There's no report to go to the Maryland State Police. None of that was done," said Davis' attorney Latoya Francis-Williams.
    
She said she requested reports written by the officers and their supervisors when preparing for trial, and was told they were never generated.
    
Additionally, none of the officers involved gave statements to internal affairs investigators until Jan. 19, more than seven months after the shooting and nearly two months after prosecutors declined to file criminal charges against them.
    
"No one from internal affairs contacted me to give a statement," Officer Alfred Santiago said on the witness stand.
    
Two other officers, Lane Eskins and Israel Lopez, testified that they didn't submit any reports after firing their service weapons.
    
Jason Johnson, director of strategic development for the Baltimore police, said it is departmental policy to wait until any criminal investigation is complete before internal affairs contacts officers for statements.
    
But in the Gray case, five of the six officers charged provided statements to investigators prior to being criminally charged. Johnson said he could not comment on the details of the Gray investigation but that scenario would deviate from standard practice.
    
"It could create a scenario where the criminal investigation gets screwed up because parts of the administrative case get infused, and that can create a problem," he said.
    
To force the officers to fill out written statements following the incident, he said, could be considered akin to being interviewed by internal affairs, which may explain why they weren't submitted. Johnson said he was not familiar with the details of the Davis case and could not comment on whether written reports were generated.
    
The Davis shooting came amid increased scrutiny of police-involved violence following Gray's death from a critical spinal injury. Gray, who was black, suffered the injury in the back of a police transport van while he was handcuffed and shackled, but left unrestrained, which was a violation of department policy.
    
His death prompted protests and the U.S. Justice Department initiated an investigation into allegations of excessive force. That probe is still ongoing. The police chief was fired and replaced by his deputy, Kevin Davis.
    
In September, Davis announced the formation of the Special Investigation Response Team dedicated to investigating in-custody deaths and use of force, and has since been vocal about the department's intent to be bullish and transparent when conducting internal investigations.
    
"Our capacity to investigate our own is better than it's ever been," the Commissioner said at a news conference Thursday about a man whose arm was broken during an arrest at a nightclub. He said the internal division "is staffed up like we have never been before."
    
After the Kevin Davis verdict, his attorney said his case was "a reflection of the rampant abuse of the Baltimore Police Department."
    
"When the officers ran down the street, (Davis) ran like everyone else to get out of their way, because if something goes wrong with an officer nobody is going to investigate," Francis-Williams said.

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