WASHINGTON — The National Sheriffs' Association plans to host presidential hopefuls in Baltimore for a candidate forum that will focus on law enforcement — an issue the group says has received too little attention in past presidential campaigns.
The Virginia-based group said it has confirmed attendance by Democratic former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, retired Hopkins neurosurgeon Ben Carson, a Republican, Democratic former Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia and Republican former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
The group said it has invited "nearly 40 possible contenders."
O'Malley, Carson and Huckabee have entered the race. Webb has not formally announced his candidacy.
The event is to offer candidates an opportunity to address law enforcement in the city that became a focal point of the national debate over policing after the death of Freddie Gray. The 25-year-old Baltimore man died after suffering a severe spinal cord injury while in police custody.
O'Malley, Carson and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul have all spoken about criminal justice in Maryland since the April riots.
The group picked Baltimore for its annual meeting years ago, long before the Gray incident. But the presidential forum will be the first it has attempted.
"For the first time ever the presidential candidates, both Democrats and Republicans, will be able to speak directly to the elected sheriffs and other law enforcement officials of the nation," Jonathan Thompson, the executive director and CEO of the group, said in a statement.
Candidates are to be given 12 to 15 minutes to deliver remarks and will then be asked to respond to questions chosen by the association. The group said more than 3,000 sheriffs, deputies, police and other law enforcement officials are expected to attend.
The event is scheduled for June 29 and 30 at the Baltimore Hilton.