Despite crime woes, Schmoke opposes increasing state police powers in city City opposition led to bill being killed by Senate committee


Although Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke called yesterday for an increase in Baltimore's piggyback tax to pay for additional police officers, his administration wants to keep state police authority limited in the crime-besieged city.

The administration, by way of the city's Senate delegation to the Maryland General Assembly, made that clear most recently on Monday. That's when the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee -- on which the chairman of the city delegation sits -- voted unanimously to kill a bill that would have authorized troopers to exercise full police powers in the city.


"Because the mayor's opposed to it and [Police Commissioner Edward V.] Eddie Woods is opposed to it," said Sen. John A. Pica Jr., the Democratic chairman of the Baltimore delegation who, along with a second city legislator, Sen. Ralph M. Hughes, also a Democrat, voted against the plan.

In fact, Mr. Pica -- who last year asked for the intervention of the state police and Maryland National Guard after a drive-by shooting in Govans -- refused to introduce the bill on behalf of the Baltimore City Council. The council unanimously passed a resolution Feb. 1, asking the General Assembly delegation to sponsor legislation authorizing troopers in the city.

So, city Councilman Timothy D. Murphy, a 6th District Democrat, the lead sponsor of the resolution, went instead to Democratic Sen. George W. Della Jr. of Baltimore to get the bill introduced.

"It's such an innocuous thing," Mr. Murphy said. "It's revenue-neutral, there was no cost to the city, and it would have resulted in a net increase in the number of police for us."

Mr. Murphy explained that the state law limits troopers' authority in the city and needs to be changed in order for them to do more than call the city police when they see a problem.

Mr. Murphy said there are more than 50 troopers who live in the city and about 350 troopers who live in the metropolitan area -- all of whom could help keep a lid on city crime "while they're driving through the city to their assignments or going shopping, or whatever," he said.

Peter N. Marudas, the mayor's legislative liaison, said that the administration opposed the bill because no administration officials were notified that it was going to be introduced.

"No one on the City Council had contacted the administration, and this is the kind of thing that needs to be looked at in a far more deliberative fashion," Mr. Marudas said. "It needs a lot of discussion and consultation, and I don't think they [the council] had a hearing on it."

Mr. Marudas did say that the state police do operate now in the city "by agreement" with the police commissioner.

Police Commissioner Woods testified against the legislation before the Senate panel at a March 16 hearing, because it "gives the Maryland State Police total dispensation to act within city limits without first communicating and coordinating its efforts with the department."

Instead of Senator Della's trooper bill, Mr. Pica said he is supporting legislation introduced by Gov. William Donald Schaefer that would make it easier for state and federal law enforcement officials to intercede in local jurisdictions in emergencies with the same legal protections afforded local officers.

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad