free speech in the service of justice

Yesterday, Gene Ryan, president of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), Baltimore City Lodge No. 3, issued an open letter to Marilyn Mosby, Baltimore State Attorney, requesting the appointment of a special independent prosecutor to pursue the ongoing investigation into the death of Freddie Gray. (Earlier, Ms. Mosby announced that the six police officers involved in Mr. Gray’s arrest would face a variety of criminal charges related to his death.) The FOP letter, its language properly deferential regarding Ms. Mosby’s “professional integrity” and citing “respect for (her) and (her) office,” expresses “concerns about the many conflicts of interest presented by (her) office conducting an investigation into this case” (among them, her personal and professional relationship with the Gray family attorney and the impact, for good or for ill, on the political career of Ms. Mosby’s husband, Nick Mosby, a Baltimore City Councilman). Mr. Ryan supported his appeal in the interest of avoiding “any appearance of impropriety or a violation of” established professional rules of conduct.

In a press conference, Mr. Ryan’s statement, while somewhat less than combative, was more confrontational, declaring disappointment with the State Attorney’s office “apparent rush to judgment given the fact the investigation into this matter has not been concluded.” Further, Mr. Ryan, both in his live address and in his aforementioned letter, expressed unwavering support for the officers who, in his view, performed their duties without fault or fail. In that belief, he asserted that the “judicial process…will result in a finding of (the officers’) innocence.”

Given my satisfaction, elation with Ms. Mosby’s announcement (May 1 blog post: folk rock), I consider Mr. Ryan’s response predictable. I intend no disregard, much less disdain for his position. Nor do I dismiss it under the heading of “what else would, could the FOP say given its bounden duty to represent Baltimore’s police officers.” Rather, by “predictable,” I expected Mr. Ryan to do as he has done, especially in light of what I behold as a larger reality; one for which I am grateful irrespective of my satisfactions (or dissatisfactions).

America, according to our national anthem, is “the land of the free.” One of our freedoms that bespeaks equality for all and of all is that of speech. Americans possess the right, the authority to express ideas and opinions, whether personal or professional, political or philosophical, publicly without threat or fear of undue retaliation. We, Americans and our experience and exercise of our freedoms, are not perfect. Often enough, throughout our history, we, with eloquent, but ineffectual lip service and good, but flaccid intentions have honored our right of free speech (and other liberties), to paraphrase Shakespeare, more in the breach than in the observance. Nevertheless, our freedoms exist. And one demonstration, indeed proof is our ability and willingness to disagree.

Ms. Mosby’s and Mr. Ryan’s positions stand in profound opposition; one that I consider necessary and, as the rule of law prevails, in the service of justice.

3 thoughts on “free speech in the service of justice

  1. Thanks Paul! Your post has helped me to appreciate free speech a little more. I have found this week that’s it incredibly difficult for me to see the points of view different from mine!! By the end of today’s speeches, commentary and media interviews, I wasn’t as big a fan of free speech as I usually am. I too was thrilled with yesterday’s indictments, but aside from that it’s been a tough week to truly appreciate the value and importance of free speech. I’ve just wanted some people to just STOP TALKING!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Believe me, Loretta, I struggle, too, when encountering points of view contrary to mine. Still, something I’ve learned is that my struggle to appreciate, accept, even acknowledge another perspective is a mark and sign that I’ve been listening, truly listening, allowing another’s “take” on an issue to sink into to my heart and soul where all my vulnerabilities about wishing things were as I desire reside. Knowing, believing that compels me to stay in the conversation, to be challenged, sometimes confronted, and, in that, changed (my viewpoint enlarged and expanded – even when I don’t desire it to be – leaving me to affirm that other point of view exists).


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