Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake laid into the city’s police union Wednesday for opposing police reforms and for comments made after prosecutors filed charges against six officers in the death of an African-American man in custody last spring.
“I think that the action of our police union and many across the country has really devalued the power of that union,” she said in a speech at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. “I don’t know, based on the rhetoric they’ve been spewing in Baltimore, who would want the endorsement of the FOP.”
Rawlings-Blake, who is not running for re-election next year, was referring to comments made by local union president Gene Ryan in the wake of a surge in violence after officers were charged in the April death of Freddie Gray.
Ryan said in May that criminals felt “empowered” since the riots took place after Gray’s funeral and that “[officers] are more afraid of going to jail for doing their jobs properly than they are of getting shot on duty.”
The mayor also criticized the FOP for opposing her proposals to reform the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights, which guides the disciplinary process for officers, during the last General Assembly session.
“I [told them] we might not get [reform] passed this year; it might not be next year, but it’s coming; change is coming,” she recalled, telling union leaders they were “uniquely positioned” to craft what that reform looks like.
Ryan said in a statement issued late Wednesday the mayor “seems to be distorted” in her recollection of those events.
“FOP Lodge No. 3 has talked reform many times, starting in 2012 with our Blueprint for Improved Policing and again in 2015 with our recent After Action Report,” he said.
The union “rarely felt as though we had a public safety partner in Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake,” Ryan added. He insisted union leaders “always said we need to come together as a community to help solve the problems facing our city.”