Marilyn Mosby has made it widely known that she comes from a long line of police officers, five generations of law enforcement to be exact. The 35-year-old Baltimore city state’s attorney’s father, mother, grandfather, and uncles have all at some point worked as cops — a history which Mosby cites to push back against the claim — as Fox News’ Griff Jenkins put it during a recent interview — that Baltimore’s finest believe the rookie prosecutor does not have their backs because of how she’s handled the Freddie Gray case.
“I come from five generations of police officers,” Mosby responded to Jenkins. “That’s absurd.”
But while it’s true that numerous Mosby family members have worn the badge, a thorough look reveals a more complicated picture of that law enforcement background than she has let on in public.
Start with Mosby’s father, a former Boston police officer named Alan James. In 1989, James and a fellow officer named Dwight Allen were arrested and charged with assault and battery for their role in several armed robberies in a high-crime area of Boston.
According to a Boston Globe article at the time, James, Allen and another suspect flashed badges and brandished guns while shaking down drug dealers. The officers identified themselves as “renegade police” and were reportedly drunk. During one robbery, one of the men fired his gun, though nobody was hurt.
James was arrested while on duty at a police station in Dorcester but was acquitted of charges in the case in 1991. After acquittal he was immediately fired for conduct unbecoming an officer, according to the Baltimore Brew, an independent newspaper.
Mosby has not publicly acknowledged this mark on her family’s policing legacy. Though, according to the Brew, she acknowledged her father’s troubled past in a biography written for her campaign for state’s attorney.
“My dad was a crooked cop,” Mosby said, according to the document, which was not released to the public. “He confiscated drugs and money from the dealers on a regular basis.”
Then there is Mosby’s maternal grandfather, Prescott Thompson. Thompson, who went by Rick, sued the Boston police department in 1986, claiming that he was the target of racial discrimination after he was denied a job.
According to a 1994 Boston Globe profile, Thompson began working as a Boston cop in 1964. But in 1971, he suffered what seemed like a career-ending injury when a car battery exploded in his face, causing him to lose his right eye. With a glass eye replacement, Thompson remained on the force — but did not work — until 1976 when he reluctantly accepted a retirement offer.
Thompson was not content to stay off the force, however. As the Globe put it policing was in Thompson’s blood. But his dreams were dashed when his application was denied because of his glass eye.
“Sight in two eyes is a bonafide occupation qualification for the position sought,” Francis Roache, Boston’s police commissioner at the time, wrote in a letter to Thompson.
But Thompson saw something else at play, and so he filed a lawsuit claiming he was not hired because he was black.
In his lawsuit, Thompson argued that four white Boston police officers with sight in only one eye worked for the Boston police department. But the department’s personnel director responded by pointing out that those four officers worked in non-traditional police jobs. One was a clerk, and another was a hazardous materials inspector.
Thompson had a traumatic experience with police well before he became a cop himself. In the Globe profile, Thompson said that he was inspired to become a cop after an incident when he was 12 or 13 involving four plain-clothes officers. Thompson said he was running an errand for his family when the officers slammed him up against a brick wall. They said he matched the description of a purse snatcher. When the officers realized their error, they let him go. The incident stuck with Thompson. As the Globe reported, “he swore that he would become a police officer, and that he would prevent that sort of treatment from happening to another black child.”
During her many public statements about her family’s law enforcement history, Mosby has not mentioned either her father’s troubles or her grandfather’s grievances with Boston police.
She has also not acknowledged that Richard Miller, her uncle and Thompson’s son, filed his own discrimination suit against the Massachusetts state police.
According to the Globe, Miller filed a lawsuit the agency in 1981 claiming that he was the target of discrimination. That case was settled in Miller’s favor, and he was awarded a $211,587 judgement.
Asked whether those many negative experiences have shaped how she thinks about policing and police departments, Mosby indicated that they have not.
“As a young child, what I saw was how hard my family worked,” Mosby said in a statement to The Daily Caller. “I have nothing but respect and admiration for all law enforcement officers who make tremendous sacrifices every day to keep our communities safe.”