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Commission investigating Gun Trace Task Force shares some recommendations, hears testimony about Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights

An attorney representing dozens of police unions across Maryland reiterated complaints of what he called failed leadership within the Baltimore police department during Monday’s meeting with the Commission to Restore Trust in Policing.

Michael Davey, attorney for the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 3, spoke directly with the commission for more than 40 minutes, nearly two weeks after sending commissioners a letter expressing his concerns.

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During Monday’s meeting the attorney objected to changes Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison and other city leaders suggested should be made to the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights. The changes Harrison and other advocates of reform are seeking would allow the police commissioner to fire officers charged with felonies and misdemeanors, instead of having to wait until they are convicted.

Davey repeatedly referred to the department as “mismanaged” and said he doesn’t think Harrison understands the gravity of his recommendations.

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“I believe that these recommendations are based on the department’s frustration that they cannot manage their own house,” Davey told the commission about Harrison’s letter. “Therefore instead of trying to work within the law like every other police department does, they want to gut it [LEOBR] and make it work for them.”

The Commission to Restore Trust in Policing was formed over 18 months ago to look into widespread corruption by the Baltimore Police Gun Trace Task Force, which led to more than a dozen officers being charged or convicted in federal court.

The seven-member commission discussed several recommendations concerning policing, however a formal report won’t be issued until later.

Retired Judge Alexander Williams, the chair of the state commission, said one of the recommendations to help Baltimore police have greater accountability and recruit people with “high ethics” is to implement polygraph tests more frequently.

Former Howard County Police Chief James N. Robey, who also sits on the commission, said he “likes the sound of a polygraph.”

“With that hanging over the head of the officers, they might think twice,” Robey said.

Sean R. Malone also discussed how to get citizens more involved and provide more information about incidents of police misconduct, to help with transparency. He said counties could have a police accountability review board that would be staffed by citizens and help supplement --- not replace --- existing civilian review boards. The commission also suggested having two civilians on a trial board.

“I would suspect we’d have some opposition, these are significant changes,” Malone said.

The commission is slated to next meet on Sept. 14 and Sept. 28. Alexander said they may vote next meeting about what recommendations to put forth to the legislature and that by the end of October, the commission may release its full report.

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