Maryland Court of Appeals Grants Baltimore County’s Petition for Writ of Certiorarii

The Maryland Court of Appeals has granted the County’s petition in the retiree health care subsidy case. The case will be heard in the fall of 2015.

Granted April 17, 2015
Baltimore County, Maryland v. Baltimore County Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge No. 4 – Case No. 25, September Term, 2015

Issue – County Government – Whether public policy, as clearly delineated in the Baltimore County Charter, the Baltimore County Code, controlling Maryland case law, and the separation of powers doctrine, provides an exception to the enforcement of the arbitration award in this case?

Link to Court of Appeals

Police Cameras Bring Problems of Their Own

Police Cameras Bring Problems of Their Own
Authorities face mountains of video data that require processing and costly storage
By
Zusha Elinson and Dan Frosch
April 9, 2015 4:53 p.m. ET Wall Street Journal

As more police agencies equip officers with body cameras in response to public pressure, authorities are discovering they create problems of their own: how to analyze, process and store the mountains of video each camera generates.
Prosecutors in northern Colorado recently spent hours poring over a dozen videos captured by police wearing cameras. The case? An arrest for drunk and disorderly conduct.

Clifford Riedel, Larimer County’s district attorney, said his office has been overwhelmed with footage from the 60 body cameras the Fort Collins Police Department uses, and will need to hire an additional technician to sort through it all. “There are just huge amounts of data being generated from cameras,” said Mr. Riedel. “It used to be that video on a case was the exception. Now it’s the rule.”

The movement gained new intensity after the police shooting last week of a fleeing man in South Carolina. While many experts inside and outside of law enforcement agree that body cameras—clipped to officers’ uniforms or glasses—help increase police transparency and may even improve police behavior, police departments and prosecutors are struggling with how to sift through, preserve and share the visual evidence.

On top of that, agencies need policies and personnel to respond to requests from journalists and the public to release video under freedom-of-information requests.

“The vast majority of places are still trying to figure this out,” said Michael White, a professor of criminology at Arizona State University who wrote a Justice Department report on body cameras.

Dr. White estimates that between 4,000 and 6,000 U.S. police departments, out of about 18,000 nationally, use body cameras. Officers generally turn them on when stopping a driver or responding to an incident.

Some departments use body cameras in addition to dashboard ones that have become common at many agencies, but result in less-useful footage because much police action takes place away from their vehicles. Body cameras—which cost hundreds of dollars each—typically result in much more video for departments to handle.

The push to require body cameras intensified nationally after last August’s shooting of Michael Brown, a black 18-year-old, by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo. This week, after a bystander’s cellphone video surfaced showing a white South Carolina policeman fatally shooting an unarmed black man in his back, several prominent state lawmakers voice support for a bill to require all officers to wear cameras.

But the cost has given some officials pause, said Lindsay Miller, senior research associate at the Police Executive Research Forum and co-author of a Justice Department report on the topic. “The cameras themselves aren’t overly expensive, but the years and years of data storage you’re going to deal with—that can definitely be cost-prohibitive,” said Ms. Miller.

Many departments keep inconsequential video for 30 to 60 days. But if the footage is evidence in a criminal case, it must be kept longer; most states require that video in a homicide case be kept indefinitely, she said. Ms. Miller said an emerging consensus is that the benefits outweigh the costs. In limited studies, the cameras have shown promise in reducing use of force by police and citizen complaints—and that can save money spent investigating complaints and settling lawsuits, she said.

In Oakland, Calif., the police department deploys 560 body cameras, enough for nearly every officer on duty, said Sean Whent, the chief of police. Their use results in about five to six terabytes of data every month—equivalent to about 1,250 to 1,500 high-definition movie downloads—said Mr. Whent. That data is stored on a department server for two years at a minimum—or longer if it is needed in a criminal or disciplinary case, he said.

In the future, Mr. Whent said he anticipates either using a cloud-storage service or reducing the retention period because of the sheer size of the data.

“It’s absolutely worth the cost—the public today demands a greater amount of accountability and transparency on the part of police,” he said. “The cameras have a civilizing effect on the police and the people who know they’re being recorded.”

In Berkeley, Calif., officials are weighing whether to outfit officers with cameras. Police estimate it could cost up to $135,000 to buy 150 cameras at $900 a pop. But it could cost an additional $45,000 a year for a limited data-storage plan priced at $25 a month per camera—and officials have raised the possibility of also hiring new employees to sift through all the video.

The cameras “will create an enormous amount of data. Who gets access to it? How does it get stored?” said Laurie Capitelli, a Berkeley City Council member. “What appeared to be a no-brainer in terms of bringing accountability to the force has raised a lot ancillary questions.”

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has pledged to purchase 7,000 cameras. The cost of data storage and maintenance is estimated at $7 million a year, a spokeswoman said. The city plans to include money for the program in its coming budget and seeks federal funds as well. The department already purchased about 800 cameras with money raised by private donors.

Seattle police wrestled with how to release footage from body cameras to the public—a dilemma highlighted by a public-records request for videos last year. The department decided to launch a YouTube channel that shows heavily blurred-out video with no audio to protect the privacy of people and officers.

Getting the videos on YouTube is a mostly manual process, but the department is working to automate it. Seattle police are also working on tools to redact sensitive information from audio files, which could be added to the YouTube files.

“Where do people put videos if they capture police behaving inappropriately? They put it on YouTube, so we put our videos on YouTube,” said Mike Wagers, the department’s chief operating officer. “That was a middle ground.”

Police brutality reforms sought by city leaders failing in Annapolis

Legislation sought by Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and other city leaders to deal with police brutality complaints has failed in Annapolis.

One bill introduced at the mayor’s behest has been killed, and the other is being quashed in committee. With a week left in the annual 90-day legislative session, only a handful of relatively minor bills remain alive in the General Assembly that would seek to hold police more accountable for how they treat citizens.

One of the surviving bills, which gained preliminary approval in the House on Friday, seeks to help reinvigorate the city’s troubled civilian review board. Another passed by the House would require law enforcement agencies to report annually on each officer-involved death.

But advocates say they’re bitterly disappointed by the meager results of their campaign to reform the system for disciplining police. They rallied in Annapolis and testified for multiple bills, including several seeking changes in the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights and spelling out how and when police should use body cameras to record their interactions with the public.

“It’s discouraging that they’re going against so many bills, and so many bills are not coming out,” said Marvin L. “Doc” Cheatham, past president of the Baltimore NAACP. “There’s got to be some compromise,” he added. “There need to be some improvements.”

Advocates felt they had momentum on their side in pushing for more police accountability. A Baltimore Sun investigation last year found that city taxpayers had paid nearly $6 million since 2011 to settle 102 lawsuits alleging police brutality and other misconduct. Officers had battered dozens of residents during questionable arrests, the investigation revealed, resulting in broken bones, head trauma, organ failure and even death. The findings were amplified by a nationwide uproar over police-involved deaths of unarmed black men in Missouri and New York.
Rawlings-Blake and Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts asked for a civil rights review by the U.S. Department of Justice, and declared their support for outfitting officers with body cameras as a way to rebuild public trust. But the mayor also called for legislation to help crack down on police misconduct.

One bill, which would have created a new felony “misconduct in office” charge for officers, was killed by the House Judiciary Committee. Another measure would have made it easier to discipline officers without them having the right to appeal; it languishes in the House Appropriations Committee.

Del. Maggie McIntosh, the Baltimore Democrat who heads that panel, said she does not intend to bring it to a vote. With law enforcement organizations solidly against it, she said, there’s not enough time left in the legislative session to resolve all the concerns.

A third bill put in by several city lawmakers would have authorized Maryland’s attorney general to prosecute police officers accused of excessive force. It was also killed in committee.

House Judiciary Committee leaders said they spiked that bill, as well as others relieving the state’s attorney’s office of responsibility for trying police brutality cases, because the other legal agencies aren’t really set up to handle them. And, like McIntosh, they said they needed more time to weigh proposed changes to the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights. They plan to study it after the session.

“It’s a law that has been in effect for more than 40 years,” said Del. Kathleen M. Dumais, a Montgomery County Democrat who is vice chair of the Judiciary Committee. “It is not something that should be changed lightly.”

A spokesman for Rawlings-Blake said she intends to keep pressing for her stalled bill until the legislative session ends at midnight April 13.

“We think we have a real opportunity, in a reasonable and measured way, to make progress in building trust between the police and the community — and we’re going to keep fighting until the end,” said Kevin R. Harris, the mayor’s spokesman.

Harris said the mayor has taken “a series of steps” on her own, contending that excessive force complaints are down while police trial board convictions are up. But he said Rawlings-Blake still believes legislative change is needed to do more.

“There’s a real feeling as though police officers are playing by a different set of rules from everybody else,” Harris said. “There’s example after example where the Officers’ Bill of Rights has been a barrier.”
Leaders of the city and state Fraternal Order of Police dispute such criticism, and say they’re glad lawmakers held back.

“Everybody’s turning the Bill of Rights into a bogeyman,” said Gene S. Ryan, president of Baltimore FOP Lodge 3. While it protects the rights of police officers accused of wrongdoing, Ryan said, “nowhere near does it keep bad officers here.” He estimated that nearly 300 officers had been terminated in the past 12 years.

Vince Canales, president of the Maryland state FOP, said that while Rawlings-Blake may have been seeking legislative help to speed up the disciplinary process in Baltimore, her bill would have undermined due-process protections for police officers statewide. He contended that her bill was “totally unnecessary.”
“There was an initial outcry that the process may not work as quickly as some would like to see it work,” said Canales, “but no one could argue or contradict the fact that it still works.”

The Maryland Chiefs of Police Association and the Maryland Sheriff’s Association likewise said they feared that piecemeal changes to the law would undermine commanders’ ability to discipline officers.

Del. Curt Anderson, chairman of Baltimore’s House delegation, said he and other reform advocates made a strategic error in pushing so many different bills, instead of narrowing down the changes they were seeking and concentrating their efforts.

“It’s easy to pick apart 14 or 15 different bills by nine or 10 different legislators,” the city Democrat said. “We should have gotten together first … and come up with a comprehensive approach.”

Whatever the reason, advocates contend that lawmakers have failed to respond to an urgent need.

“They had a real opportunity to make some improvements in police practices and take steps to help improve the police community relationship,” said Sara Love, public policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland. “This issue isn’t going away.”

Baltimore Sun reporter Mark Puente contributed to this article.
twheeler@baltsun.com
Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun

Police body camera rules narrowly failed, while easing measure survives

Amid the batch of police accountability legislation that has foundered in Annapolis this year, civil-rights advocates say they’re particularly frustrated over the failure of a bill that would have set rules for officers’ use of body cameras.
Barely a handful of relatively minor bills dealing with law enforcement accountability remain alive in the General Assembly.

But one that supporters say almost advanced is a measure introduced by Del. Sandy Rosenberg, a Baltimore Democrat. It would have spelled out the circumstances under which body cameras must be used to record police interactions with citizens – and when they could be turned off for privacy or other reasons.

Supporters of the legislation, HB627, argued that ground rules are needed to ensure body cameras are used appropriately. But police chiefs, sheriffs and others contended in hearings the legislation was too rigid for the complicated situations officers often find themselves in. They argued that departments should be free to develop their own policies.

Talks ensued between the ACLU and the chiefs and sheriffs, which nearly produced a breakthrough, according to Sara N. Love, public policy director for the ACLU of Maryland.

We agreed on almost everything,” Love said. The sole sticking point, she added, was over who should be able to see the videos recorded by police body cameras.

Law enforcement groups wanted to limit access to the authorities and the individuals captured on camera. The ACLU, though, contended the public has a broad right to recordings of police-citizen interactions, with some limitations.

The state Public Information Act already gives authorities latitude to withhold inappropriate or degrading recordings, Love said. It balances privacy concerns against the broader right to know what their government is up to, she contended.

But with complete agreement elusive, the House Judiciary Committee killed the bill. That effectively killed the companion measure, sponsored by Sen. Victor R. Ramirez, a Prince George’s County Democrat.
“We will work to attain agreement on this issue in the coming months,” Rosenberg said.
The House has passed a far different body-camera bill, one that eases a limitation on the use of the recording devices. It also lacks consensus.

That measure, sponsored by Del. Charles E. Sydnor III, a Baltimore County Democrat, would exempt law enforcement officers from the state’s wiretap law, which requires consent of both parties before any conversation is recorded.

Baltimore County officials, who are studying outfitting officers with body cameras, say it’s neither feasible nor appropriate, especially in tense situations, to make police ask citizens if it’s all right to record them. They’ve said the legislation would help in deciding to go forward with deploying body cameras.

But the ACLU’s Love argues that filming people without letting them know they’re being recorded undermines the purpose of having body cameras.

“Part of the reason for having body cameras is the hope that people will behave better – both law enforcement and (citizens) – if they know they’re being recorded,” she said.

That bill is slated for a hearing Tuesday before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.


Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun

BLUE ALERT AND BULLETPROOF VEST PARTNERSHIP BILLS PASS SENATE COMMITTEE!!!

Chuck Canterbury, National President of the Fraternal Order of Police, welcomed news that the Senate Committee on the Judiciary considered and favorably reported S. 125, the “Bulletproof Vest Partnership (BVP) Grant Program Reauthorization Act,” and S. 665, the “Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu National Blue Alert Act,” by voice vote.

“These two bills are key pieces of the FOP’s Officer Safety Agenda, which we outlined earlier this year, and we’re so grateful to Senator Leahy for all of his work on both bills, but especially the BVP,” Canterbury said. “And of course, we sincerely appreciate Chairman Grassley’s making good on his word to move these bills early in the year. Without his efforts, it was likely both bills would have been pushed off until next month.”

The Bulletproof Vest Partnership (BVP) grant program provides matching Federal funds to State and local law enforcement agencies allowing them to purchase or upgrade the soft body armor worn by their officers. More than one million vests have been bought through this program, which has greatly increased the safety of officers on the beat. The legislation favorably reported by the Committee today would reauthorize the program through 2020.

The “Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu National Blue Alert Act,” would provide for local, regional, and national dissemination of time sensitive information that would help apprehend a suspect accused of killing, kidnapping, seriously wounding, or who may pose an imminent and credible threat to a law enforcement officer.

The Interim Report of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing recommended the establishment of a National Blue Alert System and the re-authorization of the BVP program.

The Committee considered both bills on a single vote and four Senators requested that their vote be recorded as “Nay.” They are: Senators Jeffry L. Flake (R-AZ), Michael S. Lee (R-UT), David A. Perdue (R-GA) and Jefferson B. Sessions III (R-AL).

Maryland’s Law Enforcement Bill of Rights in Annapolis

The Maryland Fraternal Order of Police has been tirelessly working in Annapolis to preserve and protect Maryland’s Law Enforcement Bill of Rights. This year there have been several bills introduced by a few members of the General Assembly to either remove those rights or expose officers to enhanced penalties just because of his/her occupation as a police officer.

As a result of the hard work from officers across the state of Maryland who spoke to members of the House Judiciary Committee on March 12, 2015 the following Bills were withdrawn by the sponsor or received an “unfavorable report” (voted down) or by the members of the House Judiciary Committee on March 18, 2015.

HB112 Police-Involved Death – State Prosecutor
HB363 Law Enforcement Officer – Misconduct In Office
HB365 Felony Prosecution of Law Enforcement Officer – Attorney General
HB438 State Prosecutor – Use of Force by Law Enforcement Officer (withdrawn)
HB731 Disciplinary Actions – Written Policy
HB813 Law Enforcement Officer-Involved Deaths
HB728 Excessive Force or Misuse of Force by Law Enforcement Officer (withdrawn)
HB890 Liability Insurance – Required* (withdrawn)

There are still several bills that are yet to be voted upon. These bills will be voted on by the committee members this week. We are supplying you and your families with email addresses of the Delegates who sit on the House Judiciary committee who will be voting on these bills. If these bills pass through the legislature, they will have a far reaching negative effect on Law Enforcement across Maryland.

The State F.O.P. Legislative Committee asks that you and all of your friends and relatives reach out to the Delegates and tell them that you are against these bills that take away Police Officers rights or unfairly raise penalties for Police Officers.

You may use the below paragraph I have supplied if it is more convenient for you.
The e-mail addresses for the committee members are listed below.

My name is ____________ and am a current/retired law enforcement officer. I ask you, as a member of the House Judiciary Committee, to oppose all bills that would take away any rights of Police Officers under the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights. We also would like you to oppose any bills that would raise any penalties on Police Officers in the State of Maryland.

Please stand with the Maryland State Fraternal Order of Police and law enforcement officers throughout Maryland!

Please vote to oppose these bills:
HB384, HB819, HB968.

Vallario, Joseph Delegate Joseph.Vallario@house.state.md.us;
Dumais, Kathleen Delegate Kathleen.Dumais@house.state.md.us;
Anderson, Curt Delegate Curt.Anderson@house.state.md.us;
Atterbeary, Vanessa Delegate Vanessa.Atterbeary@house.state.md.us;
Campos, Will Delegate Will.Campos@house.state.md.us;
Carter, Jill Delegate Jill.Carter@house.state.md.us;
Conaway, Frank Delegate Frank.Conaway@house.state.md.us;
Glass, Glen Delegate Glen.Glass@house.state.md.us;
Kittleman, Trent Delegate Trent.Kittleman@house.state.md.us;
McComas, Susan Delegate Susan.McComas@house.state.md.us;
Moon, David Delegate David.Moon@house.state.md.us;
Morales, Marice Delegate Marice.Morales@house.state.md.us;
Parrott, Neil Delegate Neil.Parrott@house.state.md.us;
Rey, Deborah C. Delegate Deborah.Rey@house.state.md.us;
Rosenberg, Samuel Delegate Samuel.Rosenberg@house.state.md.us;
Smith, Will Delegate Will.Smith@house.state.md.us;
Sydnor, Charles Delegate Charles.Sydnor@house.state.md.us;
Valentino-Smith, Geraldine Delegate Geraldine.Valentino@house.state.md.us;
Wilson, Brett Delegate Brett.Wilson@house.state.md.us

After losing pension case, Baltimore County sues pension consultant

Buck Consultants contract terminated; deal with Bolton Partners is pending
By Pamela Wood The Baltimore Sun

   Baltimore County government ended a 70-year relationship with a consulting firm that gave advice on the county’s pension fund and sued the company, alleging it’s responsible for a multimillion-dollar judgment against the county.    The county is on the hook for up to $19 million as a result of the lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2007. The EEOC claimed — and courts agreed — that the pension plan discriminated against older county government workers by requiring them to pay more into the plan than younger workers.    For 70 years, the county has contracted with Buck Consultants, a subsidiary of Xerox Corp., for advice on how to manage the pension plans for county workers.    In a lawsuit in U.S. District Court, the county claims Buck Consultants gave bad actuarial advice that led to the defeat in court, and wants the company to pay the millions the county is likely to owe former workers.    “The county’s pension system is based upon the advice received by Buck over the years, and the contract makes clear that Buck is responsible for any advice that may be illegal,” said county spokeswoman Fronda Cohen in a statement.    A spokesman for Buck countered that the company has provided “sound, industry-proven service.”    “This lawsuit is disappointing, and an unfortunate attempt by the county to deflect [from] the dispute that the county has been involved with the EEOC for the past eight years,” said Carl Langsenkamp, a Xerox spokesman.    The EEOC lawsuit was filed on behalf of employees hired before 2007, which is when the county changed its pension system so that workers hired after July 1 of that year contributed to the retirement system at a flat rate — not based on their age at hiring. When the lawsuit was filed, the retirement system covered 9,500 active employees and 6,600 retirees.    The county appealed all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, which announced in November it would not hear the case. The county likely will have to repay the workers who overpaid into the pension plan, which could cost up to $19 million, according to county officials. The amount of damages hasn’t been finalized by the courts.    The county filed its lawsuit against Buck Consultants in January. The county ended its contract with Buck and hired another firm, the Baltimore-based Bolton Partners, on a short-term contract worth $25,000.    The council will vote on Monday on a longer-term deal with Bolton Partners, which already gives the county actuarial advice on its employee and retiree health insurance plans. If approved by the council, the county will pay Bolton approximately $363,000 for two years of consulting services.

pwood@baltsun.com twitter.com/pwoodreporter

County Executive Kamenetz Petitions for a Writ of Certiori in Retiree Subsidy Case

Over 400 police retirees will have to wait longer to receive their court ordered refund for health care premiums that Baltimore County over charged them since 2007.  On January 30, 2015 Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz filed a Petition for a Writ of Certiori with the Maryland Court of Appeals.

This case started as a grievance in 2007 which the Fraternal Order of Police filed and won at arbitration.  The county then appealed the case to Baltimore County Circuit Court, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals and finally the Maryland Court of Appeals.  The Courts have continually ruled in favor of the FOP and the retirees.

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz then disputed the amount owed to the retirees.  In early 2014 the County requested a hearing to contest the damages and as a result of the hearing the Court awarded the retirees $1,801,479.54 in damages and interest as well as directing the County to restore the effected retirees to the correct subsidy rate.

When the County did not follow the directions of the Court a Petition for Contempt was filed against County Executive Kamenetz, Administrative Officer Fred Homan and Budget Director Keith Dorsey and they were directed to appear in Court and Show Cause as to why the order of the Court was not followed.  The County the acquiesced and did as the Court ordered.

The County then filed 3 separate appeals to the Court of Special Appeals challenging the orders of the Circuit Court which were consolidated and heard in November 2014.  On December 17, 2014 the Court of Special Appeals denied all three appeals in a 78 page decision.  Now the County is seeking an appeal to Maryland’s highest Court.

The FOP has held the money in escrow since receiving payment from the County and was preparing to distribute it to the effected retirees had the County not filed this latest appeal by the deadline of February 2, 2015.  Since this case has started, ten retirees owed reimbursement have passed away.

Every Court decision since the inception of this case can be found on our website www.foplodge4.org under FOP NEWS LINKS.

Read Petition

Baltimore County police fatally shoot man armed with knife in Randallstown

Baltimore County police shot and killed a man who they said threatened officers with a knife and refused to drop it even after being shocked with a Taser outside a Randallstown convenience store early Saturday.

Police identified the man as Edward Donnell Bright Sr., 56, of the 9900 block of Southall Road in Randallstown. Attempts to reach Bright’s family Saturday were unsuccessful.

Officers were called just after 2 a.m. to the 7-Eleven in the 9800 block of Liberty Road for a report of a man with a knife, police said. The two officers saw Bright holding the knife outside the store and ordered him to drop it, police said.

He refused to do so, and instead approached the officers with the knife, prompting one of the officers to use a Taser on him, police said. When Bright continued to approach, both officers shot him, police said.

Bright was taken to Sinai Hospital, where he was later pronounced dead, police said.

Neither officer was injured, and both have been placed on administrative leave pending a full investigation by the Baltimore County police homicide unit and the Baltimore County state’s attorney’s office.

It was the first fatal police-involved shooting in Baltimore County since early last year. In March 2014, during a similar situation in Parkville, police shot 21-year-old Ryan Charles Deitrich, who charged at them with a knife in the 8600 block of Oakleigh Road.

Baltimore County police have delayed a $108,000 plan to outfit their 54 Tasers with video- and audio-recording cameras, amid questions about the legality of recording audio of people’s interactions with officers, the department said. Maryland is a “two-party consent state,” in which both parties need to agree before audio communication can be recorded, a spokeswoman said.

County Executive Kevin Kamenetz has said he would seek a bill to authorize police to record audio when using Taser cameras.

cmcampbell@baltsun.com

Taser cameras delayed for Baltimore County police

Plans to put cameras on Baltimore County police Tasers have been delayed as officials study legal issues surrounding the devices.

In December, Police Chief Jim Johnson said a pilot program using battery-operated cameras on Tasers would start within 30 days. But since then, questions about the legality of recording audio of people’s interactions with police have led the department to delay the launch, police spokeswoman Elise Armacost said.

Maryland is a “two-party consent state,” in which both parties need to agree before audio communication can be recorded, Armacost said. Officials are seeking clarification on how that would affect officers’ ability to use the Taser cameras, which record both video and audio.

At a meeting in Annapolis last week, County Executive Kevin Kamenetz told state lawmakers from the county that he would seek a bill to authorize police to record audio when using Taser cameras.

Armacost said the county had already ordered the cameras, but canceled delivery because of the legal questions.

“We cannot begin a program until we resolve that issue,” she said. “We did not want to take possession of cameras with audio.”

The Taser camera program will likely be ready in the spring, officials said. Once the legal issues are resolved, the department will need to develop operating procedures and train officers to use them, Armacost said. Officials have said it will cost about $108,000 to equip the department’s 54 Tasers with cameras.

One police union leader said the delay in the Taser camera program was not a surprise.

“It’s not as easy as, ‘Here’s a camera on a Taser, turn it on and let it go,’ ” said David Rose, second vice president for the Baltimore County Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 4. “There’s a whole lot of implications. … You want to try to get it right the first time as much as you can.”

Rose said the union is waiting to see the department policy on Taser cameras, and has not yet taken an official stance on them.

The department has faced criticism in the past from people who have alleged that officers inappropriately used Tasers.

The county also is considering outfitting police officers with body cameras. As part of the Taser camera announcement in December, Kamenetz said he had directed Johnson to lead a 90-day study of whether the department should have officers wear body cameras.

That group has been meeting weekly and is exploring a number of topics, such as privacy and data storage, Armacost said.

Baltimore Sun reporter Pamela Wood contributed to this article.

alisonk@baltsun.com

Fallen Hero Anniversary: Sergeant Mark Parry

This is a reminder of the anniversary date of the line-of-duty death of sergeant mark parry, on January 21, 2002.

On December 27, 2001 Sergeant Mark Parry was on patrol in Towson when a drunk driver struck his unmarked police vehicle. The driver fled the scene and was arrested a short distance away. Sergeant Parry died on January 21, 2002 from injuries he sustained in that motor vehicle accident.

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 1/21/2015 TO HONOR AND remember Sergeant Parry

MARYLAND’S LAW ENFORCEMENT BILL OF RIGHTS (LEOBR)

• Two landmark Supreme Court decisions: Garrity v. New Jersey (1967) and Gardner v. Broderick (1968), identified a need to create uniform level of due process for Law enforcement officers accused of wrongdoing

• This need for a uniform level of procedural protections and the gravity of the potential harm to officers was recognized by the Maryland General Assembly who, in 1974 enacted The Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights (LEOBR)

• The LEOBR is intended to protect law enforcement officers from unreasonable investigation and persecution caused by the extraordinary circumstances often faced in the official performance of their duties

• Inherent in police work is the conflict between police and persons being arrested, who may make unwarranted complaints out of dislike for the police and/or to use as a bargaining chip for criminal charges against them. This unique situation underscores the need for fair and thorough investigations of such complaints.

• The LEOBR applies to law enforcement officers who are authorized to make arrests and are a member of a majority of Maryland’s law enforcement agencies

• The LEOBR does not apply to a law enforcement officer who is in a probationary status on initial entry into the law enforcement agency except if an allegation of brutality in the performance of the officer’s duties

• The LEOBR also states that it does not limit the authority of the Chief to regulate the competent and efficient operation and management of a law enforcement agency by any means including transfer and reassignment

• The LEOBR grants procedural rights to law enforcement officers during disciplinary investigations, interrogations and hearings that could lead to disciplinary action, demotion or dismissal

• The fact that law enforcement agencies must investigate numerous complaints against police officers underscores the importance of having provisions concerning internal affairs investigations in the LEOBR

• The LEOBR protects law enforcement officers from being summarily dismissed from their jobs without explanation due to administrative or political expediency without due process

• The LEOBR establishes an effective means for the receipt, review and investigation of public complaints against law enforcement officers that is fair and equitable to all

• While some provisions of the LEOBR may appear accommodating to law enforcement officers, they are offset by provisions that are accommodating to management: 1) the chief’s selection of all hearing board members; 2) the chief’s authority to overrule the hearing board’s recommendation regarding punishment (This may be bargained with the Chief at the local level and has in 2 jurisdictions)

• The LEOBR does not protect the jobs of bad cops or officers who are unfit for duty.

• The LEOBR does not afford law enforcement officers any greater rights than those possessed by other citizens; it simply reaffirms the existence of those rights in the unique context of the law enforcement community

Showdown looms over law protecting police in misconduct cases

By Mark Puente The Baltimore Sun

January 3, 2015

As the General Assembly prepares for its 2015 session, a showdown is looming over efforts to limit legal protections for police officers accused of brutality and other misconduct.

As police actions are scrutinized nationwide, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and several members of Baltimore’s legislative delegation say changes are needed to handle rogue officers in the Police Department. The officials have called attention to a state law that governs the disciplinary options of police leaders — prohibiting, for example, a suspension without pay unless an officer is charged with a felony.

“Everyone else that does wrong is put in a position to be held accountable immediately,” Rawlings-Blake said. “Officers aren’t subject to those things.”

But any revision to Maryland’s decades-old police Bill of Rights would need to overcome powerful lobbying efforts from law enforcement groups, including the Fraternal Order of Police, which represents about 22,000 officers in Maryland. The last significant change to the law occurred more than 10 years ago.

“The [law] is working as it should,” said Washington County Sheriff Douglas Mullendore, president of the Maryland Sheriff’s Association. “There are no statewide problems with the [law] as it is currently written.”

Larry Harmel, executive director of the state Chiefs of Police Association, said police leaders outside Baltimore are not seeking changes to the law. He declined to speculate on potential legislative moves but said “obviously there’s a concern” within the organization, adding: “Our antennas are up.”

The increased scrutiny of the law follows a six-month Baltimore Sun investigation that revealed the city has paid $5.7 million since 2011 for 102 court judgments and settlements in lawsuits alleging police misconduct. The victims of the alleged beatings ranged from teenagers to octogenarians, and in almost every case, criminal charges were dropped against them.

In early October, Rawlings-Blake and Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts unveiled a sweeping plan, called Preventing Harm, to reduce brutality, including the possibility of equipping officers with body cameras. They reiterated that they are committed to restoring public trust in the department, and the mayor criticized the police Bill of Rights, saying that Batts needs wider authority to discipline officers.

The law mandates that disciplinary actions against police go through a three-person trial board, which makes decisions based on the preponderance of the evidence. The law affords officers 10 days to get an attorney before they can be interrogated by superiors in internal investigations. And in an attempt to avert frivolous claims, the law states that an officer cannot be investigated on a brutality accusation unless it is made within 90 days of the alleged incident. That does not stop agencies from investigating complaints if they learn about them from other sources.

Rawlings-Blake said recently that she would lead the charge for changes if solutions could be found to better investigate and prosecute problem officers. She said she wasn’t ready to discuss specifics but stressed her commitment to doing something to “hold bad cops accountable.”

The city Police Department has instituted a host of reforms in the past two years, including toughening the trial boards and forming a team to scrutinize incidents in which an officer uses force. Discipline cases are also moving faster within the department.

But Rawlings-Blake said further changes are needed. Lawmakers, she said, should consider reforms amid the national uproar over white police officers in Missouri and New York being cleared in the deaths of unarmed black men. Those grand jury exonerations triggered protests from Baltimore to Berkeley, Calif.

“It’s critically important if we are going to continue building trust between the community and police,” Rawlings-Blake said.

In November, Baltimore Dels. Jill P. Carter and Curtis Anderson held a public hearing to gather input from more than 100 residents about potential changes to put before the 2015 General Assembly, which convenes Jan. 14. Dozens of residents urged lawmakers to make the police Bill of Rights less protective of officers and to give civilian review boards power to investigate complaints.

Anderson favors changes that would make public any discipline an officer receives for misconduct — information now shielded by state law. He also wants the law to strengthen Baltimore’s civilian review board.

He said he understands the concerns from law enforcement groups and stressed that he isn’t looking to revamp the entire police Bill of Rights. “We’re going to go forward with this to explore the changes that need to be made.”

Carter has unsuccessfully proposed 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 have eliminated the 10-day waiting period before an officer can be interrogated.

She acknowledged that it is an uphill battle to change the law, but said police misconduct occurs statewide.

“It’s disingenuous and insulting to think there aren’t problems across the state,” she said. “It’s a statewide issue.”

Maryland’s law, enacted in 1974, “appears to accommodate officers more than any other state,” except possibly Rhode Island, according to a 1999 University of Maryland study.

Still, “the fact that police agencies must investigate numerous complaints against police officers underscores the importance of having extensive provisions concerning internal investigations” in the law, the study concluded.

Supporters of the law believe changes could lead to other problems, such as public officials firing officers for political reasons or “emotional firings” after high-profile incidents — not necessarily because an officer did something wrong.

Del. John Cluster Jr., a Baltimore County Republican who spent 15 years as a police officer and sergeant in the county, said he will fight efforts to change the law. “It’s a few bad apples that have caused this whole thing to become an issue.”

The law gives police leaders full authority to fire officers, Cluster said. He pointed to the firing in 2011 of a Baltimore officer who was caught on video berating and pushing a 14-year-old skateboarder at the Inner Harbor and failed to document the incident in a report.

A three-member trial board found the 19-year veteran not guilty of the most serious administrative charges of using excessive force and language, but found him guilty of failing to write a report and fill out a citizen-contact form. The panel recommended that he be suspended for six days and lose six days of leave.

But then-Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III rejected the recommendation and fired the officer. He had the authority to escalate punishment as long as he stayed within guidelines. The infraction of failing to write a report gave him the widest discretion — from no punishment to termination.

The law’s provision that governs suspensions sparked outrage in September, when the public learned that a patrol officer was caught on a city surveillance camera repeatedly punching a man at a bus shelter on North Avenue. The incident occurred in June, but police leaders did not see the video until the victim’s attorney filed a lawsuit. At the time, Batts could only order a suspension with pay.

Anger grew when the public learned that the officer remained on the street for months because an Internal Affairs supervisor did not alert police leaders. The video also showed that one officer restrained the victim during the beating and other officers did not intervene.

In October, as the Police Department released a plan to reduce brutality, Batts criticized the state law’s restrictions on his disciplinary power.

Batts said at a news conference that the law prevents him from taking swift action when officers commit egregious misconduct. Highlighting the beating at the bus shelter, Batts noted that police leaders cannot suspend an officer without pay unless there is a felony charge. That needs to change, he said.

Yet even as the mayor calls for changes to the law, Batts recently indicated that he would take a more limited role on the issue. In November, he sent an email to the force, saying that many officers “have heard rumors” that he is working to change the police Bill of Rights.

“Let me be as clear as I can be on this matter; it is a legislative issue that is best left to the elected representatives to decide,” his message said.

“I am not taking a position on this issue and the Baltimore Police Department is not taking a position on this issue. I will not give my support to any attempt to change the law. I will not volunteer my testimony in Annapolis on this issue. I have not and will not submit any letters about my position on this issue.”

That declaration surprised Anderson, who said that Batts, in a conversation, ‘”led me to believe that he would be willing to support changes.”

Rawlings-Blake said Batts is not sending mixed messages about his position on the law. She reiterated that he needs the power to swiftly discipline officers, but carries the dual role of being an officer and commissioner.

“You have to strike the right balance,” she said. “I know that he wants the ability to question officers. There are a lot of ways for us to get to that goal.”

Baltimore Sun reporter Justin Fenton contributed to this article.

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