Rawlings-Blake says changes needed to Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights

By Luke Broadwater and Erin Cox, The Baltimore Sun8:55 p.m. EDT, September 17, 2014

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake criticized the Police Department’s handling of a high-profile police brutality investigation on Wednesday, and said she had directed the police commissioner to develop a “comprehensive” plan to address brutality in the agency.

Speaking to reporters at City Hall, the mayor said top commanders should have quickly seen a video of an officer repeatedly punching a man, and should have moved immediately to take the officer off the street.

“It is outrageous,” Rawlings-Blake said of the conduct of the officer shown in the video, whom authorities have identified as Officer Vincent E. Cosom. “We have a situation where we know that video was held by the police, yet the people who needed to see it didn’t see it. That’s a problem.”

A police surveillance camera captured the incident on North Avenue the night it happened in June, and a department monitor flagged the footage, officials have said. Though prosecutors and detectives from internal affairs were aware of it, officials said, Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts said he didn’t see it until Monday — the day it was made public as part of a $5 million lawsuit filed against Cosom. Cosom remained on the job until he was suspended with pay Tuesday.

“It’s clear there is a bottleneck somewhere” that kept top officials from seeing the tape sooner, Rawlings-Blake said. “Everything I saw was a concern to me. It wasn’t handled right [during] the incident. It wasn’t handled right afterward. Either we don’t have the right procedures or they weren’t enforced. Either way, we have to do better.”

She said she was prepared to lead a charge to weaken Maryland’s police “Bill of Rights,” which some critics say is too protective of officers.

The law mandates that disciplinary actions against police go through a three-person trial board that makes decisions based on the preponderance of the evidence. Before the board’s decision, the police commissioner may suspend an officer without pay only if he or she is charged with a felony.

The law gives officers 10 days to get an attorney before they can be questioned by superiors, and lets the attorney strike members of the trial board hearing the case. Additionally, the law states an officer may not be investigated on a brutality accusation unless it was made within 90 days of the incident.

Several Baltimore lawmakers said they planned to seek changes to the law, but supporters of the act warned against sweeping changes that could undermine an officer’s rights.

Gene Ryan, vice president of the city police union, said the law simply gives an officer “his day in court.”

“She’s been giving it a bad rap. It’s a due process law,” Ryan said of the mayor. “If the investigation proves this officer was wrong in what he did, he should be punished. Let’s give him his chance first.”

Del. John W. E. Cluster Jr., a Baltimore County Republican and former law enforcement officer, said diluting the bill of rights could lead to public officials firing officers for political reasons, not necessarily because the officer had done anything wrong. And Cluster said the bill of rights already allows for officers to be fired for even minor infractions if they reflect poorly on the Police Department.

He warned against changes that would give superiors “too broad of leeway to fire someone without giving them due process.”

The video footage from the North Avenue incident appears to show Cosom launching an unprovoked attack on a man named Kollin Truss at a bus stop. Cosom lands a series of blows on Truss.

Two other officers are seen in the video not intervening. Police identified those officers Wednesday evening as Officer Dominic Gerber, a five-year veteran with the department, and Officer Christopher Dunlap, a two-year veteran.

Batts has said he was shocked and outraged by the video. City prosecutors have said there is a criminal investigation into the matter, while police said they planned to present a case to a grand jury.

Cosom will continue to collect his paycheck while on leave. His base salary is $61,000; with overtime, he earned $69,000 last year.

“I thought it was very important that he be off the streets,” Rawlings-Blake said. “I’ve looked at [the video] several times. I’ve tried to figure out under what circumstances that was the right thing to do. I can’t figure it out. I don’t want to see this type of thing happen again.”

Del. Curtis S. Anderson, who chairs the city’s House delegation in Annapolis, said Baltimore’s lawmakers were eager to partner with the mayor on the effort to change the law. Anderson said some want to see the city’s Civilian Review Board granted more powers.

“Several of us have already been talking about taking a look at it,” he said. “The civilian review board doesn’t really have any teeth. It doesn’t require the mayor or the police commissioner to act in any specific way. They don’t have the ability to redress grievances. If people feel powerless that’s not a good thing for us.”

Del. Jill P. Carter has unsuccessfully submitted several bills in recent years to change the law, including one that would have forced police to post all disciplined officers’ names online along with their infractions. Another would eliminate the 10-day wait before an officer can be interrogated. Carter did win passage of a bill called “Christopher’s Law” — named after Baltimore County teen Christopher Brown, who was killed by an officer — that requires additional training of police.

“Yes, we need to reform the police officer’s Bill of Rights, not just because of this video but because of many incidents,” Carter said. “Maryland gives more rights to law enforcement officers than any state in the country.”

The mayor acknowledged that getting legislation passed could be difficult. “Whether or not I will be able to single-handedly get them passed in the legislature, I have no idea. But I’m willing to fight.”

News of the incident involving Cosom comes after Rawlings-Blake held a series of meetings with community members, in which many voiced concerns about police brutality.

“It’s very clear we need a comprehensive set of reforms to deal with the issue of police brutality and that’s what I have asked for from the police department,” she said. “We have some really, really good officers on the street. When something like this happens, it casts a cloud over all of those officers.”

Democrat Del. Steven J. DeBoy, a former Baltimore County officer, said he was moved watching the footage of the incident. “On paper, and on video, it looks terrible,” he said. “But let internal affairs do their job.”

He said the reasons for passing the police “Bill of Rights” 40 years ago apply today. “It’s very easy to make allegations in this occupation, because you’re always dealing with situations that go from zero to 10 in a matter of seconds.”

But DeBoy also said that the investigating eyewitness accounts decades ago was a much more time-consuming process than today, when video cameras are everywhere. In light of widespread videotaping, he said he would cautiously consider revamping pieces of the law. “With technology changing, maybe that’s something you take a look at,” DeBoy said.

Nina Smith, a spokeswoman for Gov. Martin O’Malley, said he hoped the General Assembly would take a balanced approach if members consider changes to the law.

“It’s important to strike the right balance between punishing wrongdoers and ensuring there’s a fair process for everyone,” Smith said. “It’ll be up to the next General Assembly to evaluate whether that balance needs to be re-calibrated.”

lbroadwater@baltsun.com

twitter.com/lukebroadwater

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun

Health Care Open Enrollment Information

Open enrollment for Baltimore county employee health care will be available  from October 14 -  November 14, 2014.  there have been some coverage changes and copay changes.  Please click on the link below for more information.

Open Enrollment

The county has made a couple changes to the dates and time to the Open Enrollment meetings listed on the above link.

Thursday November 6, 2014 will now be at the Historic Court house.  The times are the same

Thursday November 13, 2014 has been CANCELLED.

Concerns of Police Survivors COPS Ride

The Maryland Chapter for the

Concerns of Police Survivors

COPS RIDE

To All Sworn and Civilian Police Employees:

The Concerns of Police Survivors or COPS Ride Committee is requesting your help.  For the past 15 years, retired officers from the Prince George’s County Police Department, current PGPD members and members from other local agencies have organized and staffed the Maryland COPS Ride.  Since the first COPS Ride began in 2000, we have lost 58 officers in the line of duty in Maryland.  To date, The COPS Ride has raised approximately $1.4 million towards the support of the survivors of our officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

Over these 15 years, numerous members of the original COPS Ride Committee have retired from the group.  We are looking to recruit new Committee members to assist with organizing the COPS Ride and participate the day of the event.  COPS Ride meetings are held monthly, most are held at FOP #89 at 1800hrs.  We are looking for new members who will be committed to helping us continue to support Maryland COPS.  There are many areas of the Ride that we need help in.  Your assistance, your talents and your passion can help us continue to support the MD COPS Organization and most importantly the families of fallen officers.

If you are willing to assist the Maryland Chapter of COPS and the COPS Ride, please plan to attend our first meeting for the 2015 COPS Ride on Wednesday, September 17, 2014 at 1800 hours in the board room of FOP Lodge #89. Any jurisdiction in the State of Maryland is more than welcome, as this is a State wide event.  Our meetings are informal, but our passion for the event is not.

Visit www.mdcops.org for more information on the MD COPS organization.

The Maryland Chapter of Concerns of Police Survivors is a statewide, non-profit organization which provides programs and services for the survivors of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty in the State of Maryland.  MD COPS has many programs and services which include National Police Survivors Seminars held each May during National Police Week, scholarships, peer support, counseling programs, trial and parole support, death benefit information and other assistance programs.  The COPS Ride is the largest contributor to Maryland COPS and the survivors.

On behalf of MD COPS,

Thank you.

Paula D. Speiden

Co-Chair, COPS Ride #16

 

Ride to Conquer Cancer on Behalf of Ola Santoni

I will be participating in the 150 mile “Ride to Conquer Cancer” bike event, Sept. 13th -14th.  I have chosen to ride on behalf of Ola Moyer-Santoni, one of my very best friends from Precinct 11.  Ola was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year and is currently undergoing radiation treatment in Las Vegas, Nevada.  My prayers are with her, her family and all those that suffer from this devastating disease.

In order to participate in this epic event, I need to raise at least $2,500.  Please click on the link below (my personal webpage) and consider making a donation TODAY to support me in my efforts.

TOGETHER we CAN conquer CANCER!

Thank you in advance for your generosity; let’s chat together soon!

Sincerely,

Jeffrey A. Silk

Click here to visit my personal page.

Fallen Hero Anniversary Date: Officer Jason Schneider

This is a reminder of the Anniversary date of the line of duty death of Officer Jason Schneider, on August 28, 2013.

Officer Schneider was fatally wounded On August 28, 2013 while serving a high risk search warrant with his tactical unit in Precinct 1/Wilkens, for a suspect wanted in a shooting.  While making entry he was fatally wounded by one of the suspects.  Before succumbing to his wounds he, along with another team member, returned fire killing the suspect.

Under departmental regulations, memorial ribbon bars will be worn on the uniform, above all other ribbons above the badge, or mourning bands will be worn on the badge on the anniversary dates of Baltimore County Police Officers killed in the line of duty.

Fallen Hero Anniversary Date: Corporal Samuel Snyder

This is a reminder of the anniversary date of the line-of-duty-death of Samuel Snyder on Saturday, August 23, 2014.

In August of 1983, Corporal Samuel Snyder, a thirty-year veteran of the department, was shot by a deranged subject while responding to a call for assistance from fellow officers in Towson. Corporal Snyder died on August 23, 1983 as a result of his wounds.

Under Departmental regulations Memorial Ribbon Bars may be worn on the uniform, above all other ribbons above the badge, on the anniversary dates of Baltimore County police officers killed-in-the-line-of-duty.

Members are encouraged to honor and remember Samuel Snyder by wearing their Memorial Ribbon Bars on August 23rd of each year.

 

Deferred Compensation Plan One-Time Bonus Deferral

Baltimore County FOP Lodge #4 has been working with representatives from Nationwide for members to defer a percentage of the one-time bonus that county employees will receive in November 2014.  As a result, a plan was developed to allow members to defer a portion of their bonus and avoid the heavy tax that is levied on bonuses.  Now, any bonus amount deposited into your account will not be taxed until you withdraw it.  Then, any withdraws will be taxed as ordinary income.

If you have not received a communication from Nationwide and wish to participate, please use the attachment or contact a Nationwide representative.  All forms must be returned by September 26.

Plan deferral information

Fallen Hero Anniversary Date: Lt. Michael Howe

This is a reminder of the anniversary date of the line-of-duty death of Lt. Michael Howe on August 11, 2008.

On the morning of August 10, 2008, Lieutenant Michael Howe was with his tactical unit at the scene of a murder-suicide in Precinct 4/Pikesville. When he returned home after the incident, he suffered a massive stroke and was taken to the hospital. He died on August 11, 2008.

Under departmental regulations memorial ribbon bars WILL be worn on the uniform, above all other ribbons above the badge, or mourning bands will be worn on the badge on the anniversary dates of Baltimore county police officers killed in the line-of-duty.

Memorial ribbon bars or mourning bands will be worn on 8/11/14 to honor and remember Lt. Howe.

Law Enforcement Appreciation Night at Camden Yards

Hello Baseball Fans,

Join the Baltimore Orioles at the Camden Yards as they face off against the Minnesota Twins during their first Memorial Fund Law Enforcement Appreciation Night on Saturday, August 30! Come out for an incredible night of Major League Baseball while honoring the service, sacrifice and memory of all Baltimore area First Responders!

Saturday, August 30, 2014
7:05 PM
Camden Yards, Baltimore, MD
Purchase tickets HERE

$5 from each ticket sold will be donated to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund in honor of our local first responders.

Lower Box Level Seating in Sections 62 – 64 are available for $30 (plus convenience fee) during this special event.

All city, county, state and federal law enforcement personnel, sworn and non-sworn employees, family members, friends, neighbors and colleagues are welcome to come out and enjoy these special pricing incentives as the Orioles honor our local heroes!

Questions? For any questions or accessible seating, please call 888.848.BIRD (2473) and ask for the Ticket Services team.

Download the flyer for this event.

Visit the website

2014 Ride and Run to Remember

Please spread the word for anyone who would like to take part in this RIDE AND RUN TO REMEMBER in October.

The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund’s upcoming Ride and Run to Remember  will be held on October 10th-12th in Washington, DC. On Saturday, October 11th we will be having a run or walk at The National Law Memorial and a 30 or 55-mile bike ride on Sunday, October 12th in Oxon Hill, MD.  This year we’re excited to announce a Valor Training that will be held on Friday, October 10th. This is a free officer safety training program for active law enforcement officers. For more information about the events or to register visit: www.rideandruntoremember.org .

We were hoping you would help spread the word about the Ride and Run to Remember. Any assistance with this effort would be greatly appreciated. I have also attached two flyers for posting or e-distribution. If you need other materials, such as text for e-mails/social media posts, brochures or giveaways, please don’t hesitate to ask.

See attached flyers as well.  Ride to Remember (ride)  (run)

 

Thanks again,
Kaitlin Gilbride
Special Events and Communications Manager
National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund
P: 202-737-8528 | F: 202-737-3405

 

 

Disruptive democracy in Towson [Editorial]

Our view: When a little bit of passion at a public meeting elicits a visit from the cops, it’s a sign that Baltimore County government is too complacent

We take the Baltimore County Police Department at its word that its officers were just trying to give some helpful tips to a pair of Dundalk activists about the rules of decorum at County Council work sessions and not trying to intimidate them into silence about their opposition to County Executive Kevin Kamenetz’s proposed redevelopment of a government building in the community. Even if the meeting earlier this month between three officers and a pair of community activists really was intended as a “polite and friendly way to discuss concerns about protocols,” as the police department’s spokeswoman put it, the whole business still stinks, which Chief Jim Johnson correctly concluded after reviewing the incident. His spokeswoman said today that he has talked with the officers involved and that this kind of thing won’t happen again.

Nonetheless, it’s a little disturbing that Baltimore County hadn’t already gotten the memo about free speech after the arrest last year of a man who spoke up forcefully in opposition to the Common Core at a public meeting in Towson. On the one hand, this latest incident is better — nobody go arrested. On the other hand, it’s worse; at the education town hall, one officer overreacted in the heat of the moment, while this time three officers still thought it was a good idea to intervene nearly a week after the fact. But the fault here lies not so much in a police department that has on a pair of occasions displayed a particularly low tolerance for free speech but in a county government as a whole that too often seems to view public input as a bothersome impediment to efficient operation.

The back story is that in December of 2012, Mr. Kamenetz proposed selling three government buildings to private developers with the proceeds dedicated to upgrading the three facilities in question and to providing air conditioning and better technology to schools in the communities where they were located. Among them was the North Point Government Center in Dundalk, which is home to assorted athletic, arts and community events. Last October, the county selected a developer for the Dundalk site who plans to build shops on 15 of the site’s 27 acres, to preserve and upgrade the sports fields and to construct a new recreation center with a theater.

Members of a new group called Dundalk United complained about the county’s lack of transparency in concocting the plan and picking the winning bidder — even the identities of those on the evaluation committee were secret — and they have continued to oppose the redevelopment plan.

At the County Council’s July 1 work session, one of the items on the agenda was a resolution to allow the North Point project to proceed as a planned unit development, which means it could be exempt from certain zoning rules on the condition that it provides a community benefit. In two police reports filed a week later, the officers assigned to provide security at the work session described assorted “disruptive behavior” at the meeting. It seems that some of the Dundalk activists in attendance were unhappy to only be allotted three minutes to speak (per regular procedure, which was announced at the start of the meeting), and some kept talking after their time was up. Some grew “agitated” when they learned that they could not speak unless they had signed up before the meeting. (Again, standard council procedure.) Some applauded fellow opponents’ comments or chimed in with their own from the work session room’s small gallery. One man video-recorded portions of the meeting on his cellphone and tried to present the council members with a petition. Nowhere do the officers describe anything that could be construed as a threat to the safety of the council members, staff or fellow attendees at the meeting.

Yet the events were deemed sufficiently serious that an officer called two of the attendees at the work session and asked them to a meeting at a local library, which the activists interpreted as a clear attempt by the Kamenetz administration to silence them. The police spokeswoman says that isn’t true and that the officers’ intentions were benign, but Chief Johnson, upon reviewing the incident, agreed that the meeting was neither beneficial nor necessary and could have been misconstrued.

Perhaps the speakers that day were loud and rude in expressing their opinions, and maybe they did, for a few moments, disrupt the efficient handling of all the other items on the agenda. But this meeting was the only opportunity for those concerned about the North Point proposal to address the entire council and to convey not just their views but also their passion. It’s sad that anyone was shocked to see the council members confronted by people who actually care about the items they vote on, rapid-fire, every other Monday night.

As one of the officers put it in her report, “most work sessions are conducted without incident” — we would add, to a fault. Everything you need to know about the County Council’s eagerness for public input is answered by the fact that it holds its work sessions at 2 o’clock on Tuesday afternoons. Maybe a few more incidents like this wouldn’t be so bad if they reminded the county government that the people deserve a say in the conducting of the people’s business.

In the end, the protesters didn’t disrupt anything. On the very day of the meeting between the police and the activists, the council took up the matter of the North Point PUD at its legislative session. Councilman John A. Olszewski Sr., who represents Dundalk, introduced two amendments to tweak the proposed community benefits the developer would provide. According to the minutes of the meeting, there was no further discussion of the matter, and both the amendments and the resolution itself were approved unanimously.
To respond to this editorial, send an email to talkback@baltimoresun.com. Please include your name and contact information.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun

Fallen Hero Anniversary Date: Charles A. Huckeba

This is a reminder of the anniversary date of the line-of-duty-death of Charles A. Huckeba on Saturday, July 6, 2014.

Officer Charles Huckeba was gunned down on July 6, 1977 in the Precinct1/Wilkens area while police were attempting to talk an armed, drug abusing man who was barricaded in his family’s home into surrendering.

Under Departmental regulations Memorial Ribbon Bars may be worn on the uniform, above all other ribbons above the badge, on the anniversary dates of Baltimore County police officers killed-in-the-line-of-duty.

Members are encouraged to honor and remember Charles A. Huckeba by wearing their Memorial Ribbon Bars on July 6th of each year.