Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake made a last-minute push Monday for bills addressing police brutality complaints. (Mark Puente/Baltimore Sun)
With her proposed legislation headed to defeat in Annapolis to make it easier to discipline police officers, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said she is still committed to getting more bad officers off the streets in Baltimore.
She reiterated her to pledge to make a last-minute plea in Annapolis for bills addressing police brutality complaints, even though she admitted the legislation is "standing on its last legs." Rawlings-Blake plans to lobby lawmakers to solicit advice on ways to get the legislation enacted in the General Assembly's next session.
"While I'm disappointed, I am for a from discouraged," she said Monday at City Hall. "In fact, I'm even more energized to continue with the reforms on a local level."
One of Rawlings-Blake's bills, which would have created a new felony "misconduct in office" charge for officers, was killed by the House Judiciary Committee. Another measure that would have made it easier to discipline officers without giving them the right to appeal has languished in the House Appropriations Committee.
Rawlings-Blake called her proposals "bold reforms" to change a more than 40-year-old law that provides procedural safeguards for officers accused of misconduct.
"I don't think anybody should have been surprised that something as bold as this type of reform would take more than one session," she said, adding that her team worked very hard to get traction in the statehouse.
Rawlings-Blake said her team is committed to improving the Police Department's relationship with residents. She said that is crucial in order to move the city forward to recruit thousands of new families to the city. She said she couldn't pinpoint the legislation's defeat to any particular reason.
She highlighted the reforms enacted in the past few years like disbanding a plainclothes unit that used heavy-handed tactics during arrests; convicting more officers in disciplinary hearings; recruiting the U.S. Department of Justice to help reform the police force; and developing a program to equip citywide officers with body cameras in 2016.
A Baltimore Sun investigation last year found that city taxpayers have paid nearly $6 million since 2011 to settle 102 lawsuits alleging police brutality and other misconduct. Before the lawmakers convened in January, groups that represent police and sheriff's officials in Maryland said they opposed any attempt to change the Law Enforcement Officers' Bill of Rights. Police unions also opposed the effort.