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Police agencies no longer need to report race, SWAT deployments

Law enforcement agencies across Maryland are no longer required to collect and report the race of drivers in traffic stops to the state because legislators didn't notice a 3-year-old law expiring.

Police, sheriff's departments and other similar agencies also no longer have to provide the state with information about their SWAT deployments as another expiring law had stipulated.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland decried the lapses, especially the lifting of the requirement to track traffic stops by race. Deborah Jeon, ACLU legal director, said collecting statistics are a "best practice" so supervisors can identity and "address any patterns that emerge before they become entrenched problems."

Legislators plan to reintroduce bills in the next session to restore both laws.

"It will be my first bill this year," said state Sen. Lisa A. Gladden, a Baltimore Democrat. "We have collected the data, we've seen the data and it just seems to make law enforcement officers act better when we collect the data."

Gladden said legislators simply weren't paying attention to the law's expiration date, set during the 2011 session. The lapse was the second time legislators had forgotten about the requirement. In 2010, an identical law expired without legislators being aware, and a bill was quickly reintroduced the following session to restore the requirement.

The requirement, which legislators first passed in 2001 and re-approved every few years, aimed to provide law enforcement agencies and the state with data to guard against officers making race-based traffic stops. Each year, state law enforcement agencies documented the races of all drivers stopped and submitted the information to the Maryland Statistical Analysis Center, an arm of the Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention.

Jeffrey Zuback, the state statistical center's director, said as of July 1, agencies are no longer required to submit that data. But he said he would recommend that agencies continue to collect the information in case legislators decide to re-enact the requirement.

A spokeswoman for the Maryland State Police said the agency plans to continue collecting the data and is informing other agencies of the decision.

The law requiring law enforcement agencies to provide the state with annual information about SWAT operations grew out of a 2008 police raid on the home of Berwyn Heights Mayor Cheye Calvo that resulted in officers shooting to death his two Labrador retrievers. The raid came after a package filled with 32 pounds of marijuana arrived on Calvo's doorstep addressed to his wife.

The drugs were later found to be part of a scheme in which packages of marijuana were delivered to unsuspecting recipients' homes. The packages would be picked up before the homes' occupants were aware of the delivery.

The case angered Calvo and led him to lobby for the law. It required law enforcement agencies to send the Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention a report every six months detailing the number of times their SWAT teams were activated and deployed, the location of those operations, the reason behind the deployments and the outcomes.

The law, which took effect in 2010, expired June 30. Legislators tried to pass an extension during the 2014 legislative session, but the attempt died in committee.

State Sen. Jennie Forehand, a Montgomery County Democrat who was one of the sponsors of the extension measure, said she's not sure why the bill failed.

"I think there's been frustration from the public on issues like this," she said.

Forehand is retiring this year from the Senate but said she plans to ask a legislator to redraft a bill that would restore the requirement.

jgeorge@baltsun.com

twitter.com/justingeorge

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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