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Unaccountable police are a threat to democracy

If City Solicitor George Nilson is correct in saying that the City Council can't issue a legal requirement that the police conduct themselves in a certain way, the BCPD would represent a private armed force accountable only to the mayor ("City solicitor calls police body camera bill 'illegal,'" Oct. 27).

If he is not correct, however, he has exposed a level of arrogance at City Hall that is breathtaking in its willingness to claim power.

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The issue is no loner body cameras but whether the mayor and police commissioner consider themselves accountable to the elected representatives of the citizens they are sworn to serve.

It's time to admit that the "strong mayor" model of governance in Baltimore is spiraling out of control and needs to be restrained. We need to consider revising the City Charter to strengthen our democracy and make our leaders more directly accountable to the citizenry.

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This might mean simply strengthening the City Council, or it could require a more radical a switch to a "council-city manager" form or government. Either way, it will take time, and we should start now.

In the meantime, I hope City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young will continue to hold hearings on the advisability of body cameras as well as to consider de-funding the police department until an agreement on its accountability to the council is reached.

This is a blunt approach, but it might the only one Mr. Nilson allows. A police department that does not conduct itself in a way that its citizens consider appropriate is not only destined to fail but more importantly represents a danger to our democracy.

Mac Nachlas, Baltimore

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