Bill to prohibit 'rough rides' in Maryland defeated in committee

Erin Cox
Contact ReporterThe Baltimore Sun
A Senate committee killed a bill that would have imposed a $10,000 fine if a prisoner got a "rough ride."

A Senate committee has killed a proposal that would have fined police officers $10,000 if someone was hurt while riding in the back of a police van.

The legislation was spurred in part by the death of Freddie Gray, who prosecutors say suffered a fatal spinal cord injury in the back of a Baltimore police van last year. Six police officers have been charged in his arrest and death.

The bill would also have required police to put seat belts on all prisoners during transport. During a late night session on Thursday, the Senate Judicial Proceedings committee deadlocked, 5-5.

Sen. Bobby Zirkin, a Baltimore County Democrat who chairs the committee, sided with the panel's four Republicans. Sen. Lisa Gladden, a Baltimore City Democrat, was absent and excused from votes while dealing with a health issue.

"Nobody's saying that we don't think that people shouldn't be seat-belted in," Zirkin said in an interview Friday. "It's just that it was illegal to do it that way. ... We debate bills on the legal merits."

Zirkin said the proposal pushed by Sen. Joan Carter Conway, a Baltimore City Democrat, seemed to violate state law by imposing a civil fine on someone for actions taken on the job.

The panel also voted against another Conway proposal that would have strengthened Baltimore City's Civilian Review Board, which oversees some police brutality complaints.

A similar proposal is part of an omnibus police accountability bill that Zirkin said will receive a vote in his committee next week.

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