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President Obama Responds To Charges Against the 'Freddie Gray Six'

With the news that six Baltimore Police officers have been arrested and charged over the incident that took Freddie Gray's life, President Obama reacted cautiously at the White House Friday.
POTUS graty charges

At a press conference Friday morning, Maryland State Attorney for the City of Baltimore Marilyn Mosby delivered the news that six officers have been charged (at least five are in custody) in relation to the incident that took Freddie Gray's life, and touched off serious unrest in the city. The charges range from second-degree murder to involuntary manslaughter, to assault. The news comes on the heels of a self-serving leak by police sources that absurdly suggested that Freddie Gray's injuries were self-inflicted, a leak that was quickly proven false by the subject of that leak.

President Obama, who delivered lengthy remarks about the situation in Baltimore at a joint press conference earlier this week, reacted to the charges cautiously Friday morning. At a photo op in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, President Obama called for "due process" for the officers involved, and praised the citizens of Baltimore for restoring peace to the city:

“It is absolutely vital that the truth comes out on what happened to Mr. Freddie Gray, and it is my practice not to comment on the legal processes involved. That would not be appropriate. But, I can tell you that justice needs to be served. All the evidence needs to be presented. Those individuals who are charged obviously, are also entitled to due process and rule of law.

"And so, I want to make sure that our legal system runs the way it should. And the Justice Department and our new Attorney General is in communications with Baltimore officials to make sure that any assistance we can provide on the investigation is provided. But, what I think the people of Baltimore want more than anything else, is the truth. That’s what people around the country expect.

"And to the extent that it’s appropriate, this administration will help local officials get to the bottom of exactly what happened. In the meantime, I’m gratified that we’ve seen the constructive, thoughtful protests that have been taking place. Peaceful, but clear calls for accountability, that those have been managed over the last couple of days in a way that’s ultimately positive for Baltimore and positive for the country. And I hope that approach to non-violent protest and community engagement continues.

"Then finally, as I’ve said for the last year, we are going to continue to work with the task force that we put together post-Ferguson. I’m actually going to be talking to mayors who are interested in figuring ways to re-build trust between community and police and to focus on some of the issues that were raised by the task force right after this meeting. Our efforts to make sure that we’re providing greater opportunity for young people in these communities, all those things are going to be continuing top priorities for the administration, and we’ll probably have some more announcements and news about that in the days and weeks to come.”

Former Secretary of State and Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton came out in support of mandatory body cameras on the heels of the Gray incident, but the White House has been considerably more cautious on the subject. On multiple occasions this week, Press Secretary Josh Earnest has been asked if the White House agrees with Clinton, and has consistently responded that while ear;y indications are that the cameras are beneficial in a number of ways, more study is needed.

"What the president believes is that we should expand funding and we should -- the federal government should play a role in assisting local jurisdictions who are interested in making that kind of investment, making it more financially feasible for them to do so," Earnest said Wednesday. "We also believe that the use of body-worn cameras is something that merits additional study, and we’re dedicating resources to doing that as well."

The justice department also announced, Friday, a $20 million pilot program to fund body-worn cameras for police officers, and to research the effects of boy cams.

While he has spoken out with great depth on the problems that led to the unrest in Baltimore and other locations, President Obama has been extremely timid about the role of the federal government in enacting changes in police policy and behavior.