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Baltimore County

Baltimore County vote on police accountability board postponed after activists say bill was rushed

The Baltimore County Council postponed a vote on legislation creating a police accountability board after community groups said the bill was rushed.

The council was scheduled to vote Monday, but Council Chairman Julian Jones said at a meeting that delaying the vote would give residents time to review and weigh in on possible changes to the legislation.

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Members of the Baltimore County Coalition for Police Accountability had urged a delay, saying community members did not have enough time to review the bill.

“This rushed process is a disservice to the bill’s intent, which is civilian involvement in police accountability,” the coalition said in a statement Monday.

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The bill is now set to be discussed again May 17, with a vote scheduled for May 26.

Under statewide police reform laws passed in 2021, each county in Maryland is required to establish a local accountability board. The boards will receive complaints of officer misconduct, review disciplinary outcomes, and appoint civilian members to administrative charging committees.

County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr., a Democrat, introduced a bill in April to lay out the specifics of the county’s board.

Activists want the county to strengthen the legislation by granting the board investigative powers and providing compensation for members.

They also are urging officials to give the board independent legal counsel. The legislation makes the county attorney the board’s legal adviser, which activists say is a conflict of interest because the county attorney represents police officers.

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The Baltimore County Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 4 has said it would seek an amendment to allow County Council members to nominate board members. Under Olszewski’s bill, the county executive would appoint all nine members.

Public nuisance bill

The council also passed legislation sought by Olszewski to crack down on “public nuisance” businesses.

The measure that passed was scaled back from a previous version of the bill. It targets establishments where illegal activity, including violent crime, drug dealing and prostitution, has occurred.

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Under the county’s current “padlock law,” the county police chief can close a business for up to a year if two convictions associated with criminal activity on the property occur within a two-year time period.

Under the legislation that passed, convictions wouldn’t be required for the police to take action. Instead, two police reports over the course of 12 months would be sufficient for the police chief to request an administrative hearing to shut down an establishment. The measure includes an appeals process for affected businesses.

Olszewski’s administration has said current law was inadequate for the police department to take action against businesses where repeated serious crimes have occurred.

He said in a statement Monday night that the bill will give police “an important tool to help prevent crime and keep our communities safe.”


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