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Behind closed doors, Rawlings-Blake, Young clashed over body camera implementation

Talks on Baltimore body camera task force fell apart over former FBI agent's inclusion

It's no secret that two proponents of police body cameras — Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young — are at loggerheads over the details of how to implement the program.

But another dispute helped fuel the larger fire: whether former FBI agent Tyrone Powers would be named to a task force the mayor had proposed.

Young has championed legislation to require all of the city's nearly 3,000 police officers to wear body cameras as part of an effort to end police brutality. Rawlings-Blake has vowed to veto that bill, opting for a mayoral task force to study privacy issues and cost before purchasing cameras.

Behind closed doors, the two have clashed over whether the council has the legal authority to require police to wear the cameras and whether Young's bill wastes taxpayers' money by requiring cameras for officers who don't interact with the public. Each side has accused the other of being unwilling to compromise.

But another, seemingly small, dispute contributed to the clash: whether Powers would be named to the city's body camera task force.

Powers is a director at Anne Arundel Community College and is well-known as the host of "The Powers Report" on WOLB (1010 AM). He filed an unsuccessful suit against the state of Maryland in 2008, alleging that his show was pulled from radio station WEAA because of comments he made that were critical of Gov. Martin O'Malley. The governor's office denied those claims.

In discussions with Young, Rawlings-Blake asked the council president to participate in her task force and to change the council bill to a nonbinding resolution.

She offered Young two seats on her 16-member task force, according to both sides. When Young asked that City Councilman Warren Branch and Powers be appointed to the panel, she agreed to Branch but balked at Powers.

"In putting the group together, we wanted to have people from as varied a background as possible," Kevin Harris, a spokesman for Rawlings-Blake, said of Powers. "There were already folks on the task force that had that level of experience. It had nothing to do with Mr. Powers himself."

Harris said the mayor asked Young, "Are there other names that we could add? [Young] was very adamant that Mr. Powers be his person. Unfortunately we weren't able to reach an agreement."

Harris said Young walked out of a meeting with the mayor the day of the council's first vote on the legislation.

"I named Tyrone Powers," Young recalled. "She didn't want him for whatever reason. ... If you want to work with the council, work with me. It was either 'my way or the highway.' It can't be that way all the time."

Lester Davis, a spokesman for Young, said the dispute over Powers played little role in the lack of compromise on the legislation.

Davis said Young is "comfortable with [Powers]. He's worked with him in the past. Yes, the council president was upset, but he was open to amending the legislation. This deal falling apart had nothing to do with Tyrone Powers."

lbroadwater@baltsun.com

twitter.com/lukebroadwater

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