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Neuman: I had a plan to reform executive security detail | READER COMMENTARY

Laura Neuman speaks at the groundbreaking of the new Eastern District police station in August of 2013. Ms. Neuman was selected by the Anne Arundel County Council to replace John R. Leopold as county executive in February. She ran unsuccessfully for a full term in 2014.
Laura Neuman speaks at the groundbreaking of the new Eastern District police station in August of 2013. Ms. Neuman was selected by the Anne Arundel County Council to replace John R. Leopold as county executive in February. She ran unsuccessfully for a full term in 2014. (File photo by Zoe Read, Staff, Capital Gazette)

Since leaving office, I have intentionally avoided weighing in on news or developments in Anne Arundel County. Every county executive deserves the right to lead without ongoing commentary from predecessors. Your recent editorial on reforms in the police department requires a notable exception and, in fact, calls for the answer to “a question probably best posed to those successor county executives.” Thank you for the opportunity to set the record straight (”Anne Arundel enacts comprehensive executive security reforms seven years late,” Dec. 29).

Your reporting states that Anne Arundel County recently conducted a long-overdue review of police conduct that occurred during the administration of former county executive John Leopold. You go on to say there have been “piecemeal changes” but suggest this review is “badly overdue.” While I am grateful for the work of Deputy Chief William Lowry, I would respectfully suggest you revisit your coverage and that of the Capital Gazette of the Bealefeld Task Force that I created in 2013.

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To put the state of the police department into context when I took the oath of office, I discovered an extensive covert camera network in the county, including cameras inside police stations, just after being sworn in. The police chief at the time, Larry Tolliver, had no idea who installed them and no clue they were monitored by Mr. Leopold’s office.

In addition to having cameras in police stations without knowing who was monitoring them, Mr. Tolliver was accused of using a gay slur and retaliating against officers who testified against Mr. Leopold and former chief James Teare. I asked Mr. Tolliver for, and he kindly delivered, his resignation.

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My next call was to the Maryland Office of the Special Prosecutor for guidance on how to reform our police department. Chief investigator Jim Cabezas advised assembling a task force to complete a full review. The task force was comprised of high-ranking commanders from surrounding jurisdictions and was conducted under the experienced leadership of former Commissioner Fred Bealefeld.

As reported in your paper, the task force made a specific recommendation to disband the protection unit and create a special unit reporting to the county executive similar to the governor’s. Your Anne Arundel paper, the Capital Gazette, opined in 2013 that changing the reporting structure to the county executive’s office is an “overreaction to a scandal that didn’t stem from faulty lines of authority, but rather from abuse of power by Leopold and Teare.”

In the interest of transparency, I turned this decision over to newly-hired police chief Kevin Davis. The editorial board and Chief Davis were in agreement that the change was unnecessary. Nonetheless, new protective detail personnel were assigned and best practice policies and protocols were implemented in 2013 and 2014.

Further, the reporting of the Capital Gazette in 2013 goes on to say the task force recommended, “a strengthening of the internal review process — with both targets and those who made complaints kept informed about what happened.” That is exactly what happened. A tip line was set up and a captain was assigned to lead internal affairs, an enhancement from a previous lesser rank.

Instead of trite statements that police officers shouldn’t remove campaign signs or compile dossiers on political opponents, an obvious breach of duty, my Commission on Excellence and the task force recommended hiring an inspector general which would have been done if I had remained in office. I leave that decision to my successors.

Laura Neuman, Baltimore

The writer served as Anne Arundel County Executive from 2013 to 2014.

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