Legislation Again Up For Consideration To Transfer BPD To City Control

Legislation is again up for consideration in the Maryland General Assembly to give local control of the Baltimore Police Department to the city.

The Baltimore Police Department became a state agency 158 years ago after the General Assembly concluded the mayor and City Council were incapable of maintaining order.

Now, many people believe the state-run agency has failed to maintain order.

Local control of the police department has been a decade-long crusade for Mayor Brandon Scott.

"It is about accountability, it's about representative democracy, it's about racial justice," Scott said. "Our city is the only jurisdiction in Maryland that does not directly oversee the police department."

As an example, when it came to the issue of police body cameras, Baltimore City had to ask the General Assembly for permission to establish a program. Lawmakers will have to give their approval for the city to redraw antiquated police districts. Then, there is the consent decree with the U.S. Justice Department.

"The policies that are put in place for the consent decree have to be put into law, and we know doing it here locally is a lot better for our reform efforts," Scott said.

If passed, the mayor and City Council would be able to micromanage policing. Officers would become city employees. The city is already responsible for the police budget. The department would be subjected to city ethics laws and regulations.

Baltimore City Sen. Cory McCray, D-District 45, who had concerns over local control in the past, is now sponsoring legislation (Senate Bill 786) to do it. He and other senators believe it's the right thing to do.

"This is something that is a benefit to citizens who have issues with the police department," said Baltimore County Sen. Charles Sydnor III, D-District 44.

"This, coupled with the other changes that need to be made, such as changing the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights and giving transparency within the ability to access disciplinary records of police officers, these three things, this trilogy of things will now put Baltimore City in the position where there is no more excuses because all of the accountability will lie on the city of Baltimore for everything," said Baltimore City Sen. Jill Carter, D-District 41.

Passage would allows the city to draw up a charter amendment and put local control on the 2022 ballot so that voters have the final say.

The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee held a hearing Thursday morning for the bill.

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