Experts cast doubt on psychological evaluations for Md. police

By: Bryan P. Sears Daily Record Business Writer November 24, 2015

Improved supervision and training may improve policing more than mandatory psychological evaluations of officers, according to two experts.

The testimony before the Public Safety and Policing Workgroup cast some doubt on efforts to require additional mandatory psychological testing of police officers. Some members of the panel said there is no consensus on what such a recommendation would look like.

“This is all about the failure to supervise at all levels,” said Stephen F. Curran, a psychologist with a specialty background in police and public safety, in discussing shortcomings in police performance. “It’s the failure to take disciplinary action — to hold people accountable. That’s the push.”

Curran was one of two experts to testify Tuesday at Morgan State University before the work group. The legislative panel is expected to meet one more time in early December before making recommendations on as many as six bills focused on changing policing in the state.

There are about 70 psychologists certified in the specialty of police and public safety, according to Curran, who said he is the only one with such credentials in the state.

Hamin Shabazz, chairman of the Criminal Justice Department at Stevenson University and a former police officer in Camden, New Jersey, said most police departments already test recruits, though there is no consistency in terms of which test is used.

“I would say to you that the problems that law enforcement is experiencing in the state of Maryland as well as the United States is based on training,” said Shabazz. “That is where I think the solutions will be.”

Many agencies also have periodic exams to test fitness for duty. As legislators consider the possibility of requiring mandatory psychological evaluations, some have raised the question of costs, which are estimated to be between $3 million to $5 million annually statewide.

“My position on retesting is that I think it would be a waste of resources,” Shabazz said. “The average cost of an exam is about $300 (per officer).”

The work group is one of three taking up police and criminal justice issues before the General Assembly convenes in January. Other panels are looking at body cameras or at how to lower the rates of incarceration and recidivism in Maryland.

The panel was created earlier this year by House Speaker Michael E. Busch and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. in the aftermath of the riots that followed the death of Freddie Gray, a west Baltimore man who suffered fatal injuries while in police custody.

Since its first meeting in June, the group has looked at issues including hiring practices, diversity within police departments and additional, mandatory periodic psychological evaluations of police officers.

Still, some members of the panel say testing can play an important role in determining if an officer can adequately perform his or her duties.

“Inadequate testing is what we’ve also got,” said Sen. Catherine Pugh, D-Baltimore City, referring to part of Shabazz’s testimony. “There’s an inconsistency across the board, and regulations need to be changed. We don’t really have professionals who are doing this testing, that’s my understanding. With 17,000 police officers we certainly can’t have one person providing psychological testing.”

Del. Brett R. Wilson, R-Washington County, said there is no consensus on the panel to require testing and said any such recommendation would have to contain specific guidance on what circumstances would trigger an evaluation.

“There’s a clear difference regarding when it should be administered and how it should be triggered,” said Wilson, who is also an assistant state’s attorney in his home county. “We’ve heard talk that after any traumatic event, from an accident where a child dies all the way up to instance where there is an excessive force brutality case, there’s no consensus right now. There’s a gut feeling that testing of a person that could indicate a problem could prevent a bigger problem. I don’t know if we got a clear answer on that specific issue from the experts.”

FOP Lodge #4 Election Results 2015

Below are the results of the 2015 elections for FOP Lodge #4. Officers will be sworn into office in December and will serve a term of 2 years. This year we had a total of 1210 ballots returned.  Congratulation to the winners and all those who participated and voted this year.

President – Cole Weston -(unopposed)
1st VP – Steven Comegna – (unopposed)
2nd VP – David Rose – (unopposed)
Treasurer – Bob Caskey – (unopposed)
State Trustee – Don Patterson – (unopposed)

Donna Patterson – 821

Kathryn Greenbeck – 249
Bryn Blackburn – 108

Tony DiCara – 665

Rob Graff – 465

Sergeant at Arms
Ryan Massey – 694

Mike Greco – 478

Executive Board of Directors
Mike DiCara – 900
Kathy Kraemer – 883
Tom Scally – 880
Jim Rommel – 873
Dave Sweren – 587
Pat Zito – 544
Sekou Hinton – 361
Doug Jess – 307









The Baltimore Sun Analysis of the L.E.O.B.R. is Incorrect

On October 26, 2015 The Baltimore Sun published an editorial titled Disciplining Bad Cops . The editorial touched on two sections of Maryland’s Law Enforcement Bill f Rights (L.E.O.B.R.). In the first part they write about the provision that allows an officer 10 days to get representation before being interviewed in an administrative investigation. Stating, “Nevertheless, the 10-day rule fosters a perception that officers are above the law and are afforded protections the rest of us are not.”

When one looks as to why that provision of the L.E.O.B.R. is in place, one finds that it is based upon a decision of the United States Supreme Court. In the United States Supreme Court case of National Labor Relations Board v Weingarten 1975, the Justices opined that when an employee, who is represented by a labor organization, requests an attorney or other representation, an employer has three options:
1. Grant the request and delay questioning until the union representative arrives;
2. Deny the request and end the interview immediately; or
3. Give the employee a choice of: (a) having the interview without representation or (b) ending the interview.
If the employer denies the request for union representation and continues the meeting, the employee can refuse to answer questions.

Under Maryland’s L.E.O.B.R., if an officer does not have representation available within the 10 days, the officer forfeits the right to representation and can be compelled to answer all questions. Any refusal may lead to disciplinary action up to and including termination. Under Weingarten, there is no ten (10) day limit for other employees. The ten (10) days in the L.E.O.B.R. is a deadline for the officer, not the agency. The L.E.O.B.R. actually takes a right away from an officer that is afforded to everyone else but grants the officer sufficient time to obtain representation.

The author also touches upon a section of the L.E.O.B.R. that refers to allegations of excessive force or brutality being filed within 90 days. Stating, “Moreover, even if there were no waiting period before department investigators can question officers accused of misconduct, they are still barred from examining allegations of brutality that are more than 90 days old. As a result, bad officers can escape consequences even after commanders become aware of their misconduct.”

The Maryland Court of Appeals has ruled on this issue in Baltimore City Police Department v. Michael Andrew in 1989. In the decision the Court states in part “This language may be seen as designed to protect officers against frivolous complaints via the oath requirement, but it certainly is no statute of limitations.” “But what the statutory language, consistent with the legislative history, bars is further investigation or proceedings in a brutality matter at the behest of the complainant, if the complaint has not been filed within 90 days. It does not bar further proceedings if the police agency, on its own initiative, decides to conduct an investigation or press charges.” “Thus, the available history demonstrates that the last sentence of § 728(b)(4) was designed to operate as a statute of limitations. This approach is consistent with the notion of protecting police officers from irresponsible or frivolous complaints of brutality. It also is consistent with the general goals of the LEOBR.”

“In other words, when a qualified complainant files a sworn brutality complaint within the 90-day period, the police agency has a duty to proceed with an investigation. If that same complainant files a sworn complaint more than 90 days after the incident of alleged brutality, there is no duty to investigate. But if the police agency decides on its own to proceed with the investigation (and with the placing of charges if the investigation so indicates), § 728(b)(4) does not prevent it from doing so.”

In summary, Police agencies in Maryland can, in fact, investigate allegations of excessive force and brutality that have been filed after the 90 days if the agency head chooses to proceed on its own initiative.

FOP Calls on Members to Boycott Tarantino

Chuck Canterbury, National President of the Fraternal Order of Police, called on the organization’s members to boycott Mr. Quentin Tarantino’s film, The Hateful Eight, which is scheduled to be released later this year. In addition, the FOP is advising its members not to accept assignments or perform off-duty work, such as providing security, traffic control or technical assistance to any project involving Mr. Tarantino.

“For a man who has built his career on glorifying criminal violence, we take great offense to his recent comments calling law enforcement officers ‘murderers’ just days after an actual murder of a New York City Police Officer,” Canterbury said.

The FOP has urged its 2300 lodges and 330,000 members to boycott Mr. Tarantino’s latest project in reaction to his inflammatory remarks describing law enforcement officers as “murderers” while attending an anti-police rally. Canterbury sent a letter to the Weinstein Company informing them of the reasons the FOP would be boycotting the film.

“If Mr. Tarantino truly wished to be on “the side of the murdered,” he would speak in defense of Officer Holder and the 37 other law enforcement officers who were killed in the line of duty in 2015. Thirty-eight dead police officers may not be much of a body count for a Tarantino film, but to the brave men and women of the Fraternal Order of Police, it is far too many,” Canterbury said.

The Fraternal Order of Police is the largest law enforcement labor organization in the United States, with more than 330,000 members.

National FOP President Chuck Canterbury’s Response to FBI Director Comey

Why FBI Director Comey is wrong

Recently FBI Director Comey, who by the way has never served as a law enforcement officer, again made statements that I feel just do not meet the smell test.

In February of this year, Director Comey made the following remarks about law enforcement.

Comey, who has held the FBI’s top post since 2013, said police officers should acknowledge the “widespread existence of unconscious bias.”

Comey speaking after Ferguson asserted that there is wide spread existence of unconscious bias in law enforcement and that that is what is causing a distrust between communities and their law enforcement officers. I reject this claim and again reiterate that when law enforcement is the only part of government that citizens see, we become the focus of community mistrust. When politicians use their police to deal with years of inequities and urban blight and do nothing to try to build a better life for their citizens, then it is them who have failed their citizens not the police who must deal with all of the issues without the support of their governing bodies.

We know that daily law enforcement is called on to reduce crime “for the quality of life” but that the underlying causes are not addressed the community cannot improve unless the social issues are addressed as well. When law enforcement is the only government representatives that a community sees we become the face of the enemy.

Many of us in Law Enforcement have been saying and will continue to say that the mistrust with Government starts at a much higher level and that the major issue and common denominator in communities that have trust issues is poverty.

Director Comey, we do know what’s going on in neighborhoods that mistrust law enforcement, because we are the only ones doing anything to help these communities.

In Chicago earlier this week, Comey again addressed a forum at the University of Chicago and in my mind and surprisingly in President Obama’s mind, blamed Law Enforcement for the uptick in violent crime. Here is a quote from Comey’s talk at the University of Chicago.

“On Monday, FBI director James Comey reiterated that the rise of violent crime in certain cities may be a result of less aggressive policing due to increased scrutiny of officers in the wake of recent high-profile police killings of black men”.

First and foremost people who break the law cause crime. Are police officers dealing with anxiety and stress over the lack of public support, absolutely but to blame the rise in crime on officer’s behavior is just not grounded in fact and is wrong.

Police officers have not stopped responding to calls especially high priority calls that involve violence and this is evidenced with the fact that thirty-two police officers have been killed by firearms already this year, doesn’t sound to me like law enforcement is not doing their jobs. Reductions in public contacts are more the result of less police on the street than it is on officers being reluctant to act.

Governments have as a result of high profiled incidents backed police off of doing their jobs. They have stopped preventive patrols, they have reduced the number of officers on the street and they have given orders as was evident in Baltimore for officers to disengage from people committing criminal acts. These are the reasons we are seeing a spike in violent crime along with the failure of government to address the real issue and that is the abject poverty that many Americans suffer from. It is my assertion that until the Governments of our jurisdictions acknowledge that Law Enforcement cannot fix failed neighborhoods by themselves, we will continue to suffer from mistrust.

Review of a Deadly Force Incident

The link below is a review of a deadly force incident involving a CPD officer and Tamir Rice. The review was completed by Kimberly A. Crawford, Supervisory Special Agent, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Legal Instruction Unit (Retired).

In the review she explains in detail with court citations, what can and cannot be taken into account when reviewing an officer’s use of deadly force.

It is a very concise eight page report.

Baltimore County union says 911 staffing problems persist

Disagreements between Baltimore County 911 workers and administrators have come to a head, with union leaders planning a rally this week to focus attention on the Towson call center.

The Baltimore County Federation of Public Employees says high turnover and vacancies at the 911 center could put public safety at risk. The union says employees object to the county’s plan to switch to shifts that rotate between days and nights, beginning in January. County administrators contend they need the change to ensure that each shift is staffed with experienced employees.

John Ripley, head of the Baltimore County Federation of Public Employees, said about 25 workers have left the center in the past six months. He said they are leaving largely because they don’t want to switch to rotating shifts.

“Our calculation is it’s over 230 years of experience, and that’s something that’s not replaced easily,” Ripley said. “We just feel like it’s a formula for disaster.”

A rally organized by the union is planned for Monday at 5:30 p.m. before the regularly scheduled County Council meeting. The union contends that rotating shifts are unhealthy for workers and create family hardships.

County officials say that over the years, 911 employees have been allowed to change shifts when a vacancy occurs, leading to an imbalance in experience because more experienced workers take the most desirable shifts.

“These assignment changes were approved with such frequency, for the employees’ benefit, that the experience gap … became dramatic and had to be corrected,” county administrative officer Fred Homan wrote in an open letter to 911 center employees last week.

For example, Homan said, at one point last year, the average experience for the 911 call-taking evening shift was about three years, while the average experience on the fire dispatch day shift was about 21 years.

County spokeswoman Ellen Kobler emphasized the center receives on average only 10 complaints from the public per year out of 750,000 calls.

According to county administrators, the center has 172 employees and 15 vacancies. A new class of 23 people is about to start, Kobler said.

“After their six weeks of training and two months of mentoring, we plan to be over authorized strength,” Kobler said in an email to The Baltimore Sun.

Because of under-staffing at the 911 center, county officials moved seven police and fire employees to the facility this year. Five firefighters and two police officers are working at the 911 center, with plans to return them to their police and fire positions within three months, Kobler said.

Last month, Capt. Joseph Conger, the police department’s technology and communications commander, said his division had received complaints from officers who said dispatchers were “unequipped to handle” inquiries involving law enforcement databases.

“The 911 Center Administration has assured us that this should not be happening,” Conger wrote.

Kobler said the complaints were the result of “a one-time mistake by an individual dispatcher.”

“Management corrected that individual on the mistake,” she said.

FOP Lodge #4 Response to the County Executive’s Body Camera Announcement

Over the past year law enforcement agencies across the country have faced intense public scrutiny about officer conduct and the use of force by officers on the citizens they serve. Recent events both nationally and local have gained widespread attention on both traditional and social media. This has created this firestorm of rhetoric that police officers in America are out of control, running rampant throughout the community, with no regard for citizen rights and no mechanism to discipline officers for misconduct. That is certainly not the case in Baltimore County. We enjoy a good working relationship with the community we serve. While BWC’s may be an appropriate and much needed tool in some police agencies, there have been no significant incidents or systematic problems within the department resulting in a call from the community for Body Worn Cameras (BWC). There is no evidence that the cost of a BWC program in Baltimore County would be offset in savings from fewer lawsuits. Once in place, a body worn program will be difficult to terminate or scale back, leaving the county with a significant, permanent fiscal obligation and little financial payoff. Such cost would be passed on to the taxpayer.

It appears, given the statistics below that a BWC program in Baltimore County may be a solution for a problem that does not exist and given the significant cost and complexity of the program it would be a misuse of tax dollars to move forward on a BWC program at this time.

Year County Population Calls for Service Assaults on Officers Arrests Uses of Force Citizen Complaints
2009 789,814 623,520 839 34,447 391 156
2010 801,700 604,706 957 33,898 329 128
2011 805,029 576,017 955 29,959 354 109
2012 817,455 585,112 798 29,439 377 126
2013 817,455 580,416 692 27,982 318 124
2014 824,000 572,289 659 26,989 305 89
3,542,060 4,900 182,714 2,074 732

Calls for Service
The number of calls for service shown includes all calls to 911, non emergency calls and traffic stops. This does not take into account the numerous undocumented interactions with citizens that officers have every day.

Calls for service for the time period shown have shown a steady decline of 8%. The average number of calls for service was 590,343. Every year since 2011 has been under the average.

In Baltimore County between 2009 and 2014 there were a total of 182,714 arrests made. That equates to an average of 30,452 arrests per year in a county where the population has grown to 824,000. Every year since 2011 has been under the average. The number of arrests has consistently trended downward since 2009 while the population has steadily grown.

Uses of Force by Officers
In the Baltimore County Police Department a “use of force” report must be completed when an officer uses force involving Department issued equipment, personal equipment, an instrument of necessity (excluding firearms) and/or when injuries (visible or non visible) have occurred to an individual that indicate medical treatment may be necessary.

In the six years indicated above Baltimore County officers used force (excluding firearms) a total of 2,074 times. From 2009-2014 there has been a 22% decrease in uses of force by officers. Additionally, the statistics show that force was only used in 00.0585534% of all calls for service and 01.1351073% in all arrests.

Internal Affairs stats show that officers were involved in combat shootings 34 times during the same time period averaging about 5.6 per year. This equates to the use of a firearm in 00.0009598% of all calls for service and in 00.0186083% of all arrests.

Assaults on Officers
During the 6 year time period officers reported being assaulted 4,900 times averaging 816.6 assaults per year. (There has been 1 line of duty death) While assaults on officers have been trending downward, the numbers showed that officers in Baltimore County are 2.3 times more likely to be assaulted by a citizen than use force against a citizen.

Citizen Complaints
According to the Internal Affairs Section in the Baltimore County Police Department there were 732 complaints from citizens about officer misconduct, including uses of force. That equates to an average of 122 per year and has also been steadily trending downward (42.9%). Over the entire time period there was an average of 1 citizen complaint for every 4,838 calls for service. The best year was 2014 with 1 citizen complaint for every 6,430 calls for service.

Retiree Health Care Case has been Scheduled in Court of Appeals

The Court of Appeals has scheduled oral arguments for the retiree health care subsidy case for Monday November 9, 2015 at 9am

Baltimore County, Maryland v. Baltimore County Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge No. 4

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?

Attorney for Petitioner: James J. Nolan, Jr.
Attorney for Respondent: John M. West

Statement of FOP President Chuck Canterbury on Recent Violence Targeting Law Enforcement Officers

This has been a brutal and tragic few weeks for our nation’s law enforcement officers. In just two weeks, five law enforcement officers were murdered and a sixth death of an off-duty officer is being investigated as a homicide. The level of violence aimed at law enforcement officers has escalated in every region of our county and it is being fanned by the seething hatred of a small, but vocal few who are adept at manipulating the media.

It is a difficult and dangerous time to be a police officer and not just because the increased violence is aimed at us. The vitriol, the hateful screeds and statements of those we are sworn to protect and defend, as well as public calls to kill and injure police officers, are horrifying. How can it be true that in America in 2015 we hear about the deliberate, vicious assassination of a Texas Deputy and, the very next day, the national news media repeatedly airs footage of demonstrators calling for violence against police — “pigs in a blanket, fry ‘em like bacon.”

It is not just talk; it is not just rhetoric. Those spewing this hatred and those calling for violence are having an impact. They have been given a platform by the media to convey the message that police officers are their enemy and it is time to attack that enemy from ambush, from hiding. Social media accounts are full of hatred and calls to target and kill police officers. There is a very real and very deliberate campaign to terrorize our nation’s law enforcement officers.

Our members and all law enforcement officers put on their uniform and go to work to protect their communities in a state of hypervigiliance. They are making split second decisions of life or death and now part of that decision-making process includes: “How will this look on television?” or “Will I lose my job or be charged with a crime?”

No officer should be in a position to decide between his job and his life. But brothers and sisters, I am afraid that too many of us are doing just that because of the volatile social climate.

When a member of our community is in trouble, they call the police and we go to help them. When police officers are in trouble, who can we call?

Our elected officials are quick to console the families of the fallen and praise us for the difficult and dangerous work that we do every day. Yet, too many are silent when the hate speech floods the media with calls for violence against police or demands that police stand down and give them “room to destroy.” The violence will not end until the rhetoric does, until law enforcement leaders and elected officials lose their fear of this tiny fraction of extremists and stand up to reject, completely and without qualification, the use of violence, terror and hate as an instrument of social change. That is not who we are as Americans.

The great Irish statesman, Edmund Burke, wrote “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Too many good men and women are doing nothing and saying nothing in defense of us, the defenders. As a result, we now have the crisis of this nationwide trend of violence against police officers.

The FOP will not be silent. We will not be afraid or be rendered paralyzed by political correctness. We will not do>
I have called on the Administration to acknowledge this crisis and asked them to work with us to address the violent surge against police. I have called on Congress to expand the Federal hate crimes law to protect police, to reauthorize the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Program and to fully fund the State and local law enforcement assistance programs that provide our men and women in the field with the resources and equipment they need to do their jobs and get home to their families at the end of their shift.

The FOP will not stop, will not quit and will not be intimidated. We will work to protect you and work to get those who should be speaking out to do so in our defense.

Our members should take heed of their own elected officials at every level of government and know who is defending us and speaking for us and who is defending our attackers, be it on the streets or in the halls of power. Enough is enough!

Be safe, my brothers and sisters. Be safe, be vigilant and may God bless you and your families.

Are more police getting killed? A look at officer deaths

By Michael Tarm
Associated Press

CHICAGO — The killing of a veteran police officer north of Chicago is the latest in a string of recent law enforcement deaths. Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz’ death on Tuesday triggered a manhunt for three suspects around the small Illinois community where the 52-year-old officer worked. A look at some of the latest slayings and data on other officer killings:

How Many Officers Have Died?
Gliniewicz was the eighth law enforcement officer shot and killed in the U.S. in the last month and the fourth in 10 days, according to the Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, which tracks officers’ deaths so their names can be enshrined on a Washington, D.C., memorial. Steve Groeninger, a spokesman for the group, said four fatal shootings in recent days is a higher rate than usual.

Is That An Incease?
No. Shooting deaths of officers are actually down 13 percent compared with the same January-to-September period in 2014. There were 30 shootings last year and 26 this year. Those figures include state and local officers, as well as federal agents. The figures also include two accidental shootings, Groeninger said. Suicides are not included.

Deaths have declined through the decades. The average number of officer shooting deaths for the first six months of each year — which is how the memorial fund gauges trends — was 62 through the 1970s.

The worst half-year period over the past five decades was in 1973, when 84 officers were shot and killed in the first six months alone. Through the early 2000s, the six-month average fell to 29.

More than 20,500 names are inscribed in marble on the memorial in Washington. They include officers killed in attacks and in accidents from 1791 through 2015.

Where Were The Other Recent Killings?
Darren Goforth was shot and killed Aug. 28 in suburban Houston as the Harris County deputy stopped to put gas in his patrol car. Henry Nelson, an officer in Sunset, Louisiana, was shot and killed Aug. 26 while responding to a domestic-violence call. Louisiana State trooper Steven J. Vincent died Aug. 14 after being shot in the head while assisting a motorist.

Do The Numbers Indicate Anything?
Groeninger cautioned that it was too soon to say if officer deaths are trending up. “The data doesn’t say that yet,” he said. He also said there is no clearly identifiable pattern in the killings and no conclusions to draw for now, other than “there are people out there who intend to harm police officers for whatever reason.”

How Many Officers Have Been Specifically Targeted?
During the last 12 months, six officers appear to have been targeted specifically because they worked in law enforcement, according to the memorial fund. That includes the Texas deputy, as well as two New York City officers who were shot and killed in December as they sat in their patrol car.

Elsewhere, an officer for the Housing Authority of New Orleans was fatally shot in his patrol car on May 24. In California, a San Jose Police Department officer was killed March 24 responding to a call that a man was threatening to kill himself. A Pennsylvania State Police officer was shot and killed on Sept. 14, 2014, outside a police barracks by someone wielding a rifle.

What Agencies Did The Slain Officers Work For?
City police account for the largest number of officers killed in shootings. Out of the 26 officers killed nationwide so far this year, 17 were on city forces, four were with the county and three with the state. One federal agent and one tribal officer were also killed, according to the memorial fund.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press

After Baltimore riots, changes to police ‘bill of rights’ sought

August 24, 2015
As the national debate continues over police shootings and the use of excessive force, a Maryland legislative panel Monday weighed whether changes should be made to the protections afforded to officers accused of misconduct.

Police officers, advocates of police restructuring, sheriffs and police chiefs offered testimony on the merits of reducing a provision that gives officers 10 days to receive representation before cooperating with an investigation, opening trial boards to the public, and increasing from 90 days to a year and one day the length of time that someone may file a brutality complaint against an officer.

Officials from the state NAACP and the ACLU of Maryland said they hope the panel will consider recommending that the General Assembly do away with the “10-day rule” and increase the time for filing a complaint — actions they say are necessary to repair the fractured relationship between police and communities. In this Aug. 9, 2015 photo provided by Noah Scialom, a member of the Baltimore Police Department points a gun during a confrontation with dirt bikers, bicyclists and onlookers in Baltimore. Police in riot gear cleared the crowd from a street near Druid Hill Park after they said some had thrown objects at officers. (Noah Scialom/AP)

An effort to make changes to Maryland’s Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights (LEOBR) earlier this year died in committee.“We think without radical reform, communities across the state will not have the confidence in their police force that everyone should have,” said Rion Dennis, co-political action chair for the Maryland State Conference of the NAACP. “If we cannot count on [police officers] to be orderly themselves, it becomes a real breakdown in society.”

The legislative work group was formed by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) and House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) after the Baltimore riots in April and the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who suffered a severe spinal cord injury while in police custody. Gray’s death sparked unrest in the city and placed Maryland at the center of a national discussion about police use of deadly or excessive force on African Americans. Six police officers have been charged in Gray’s death.

The panel, which has examined police training and recruitment, focused its efforts Monday on the country’s oldest Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights, enacted in Maryland in 1974.

Police union officials said the policy, which is designed to provide due process rights to officers, needs no revision.

“The LEOBR works and does not need to be changed,” said Frank D. Boston III, the legislative counsel for the Maryland Fraternal Order of Police. “It weeds out the bad police officers or bad apples and serves to protect the good police officers who are doing their jobs.”

Dale Jones, president of the Fraternal Order of Police in Prince George’s County, said 198 officers have been terminated or resigned with prejudice for misconduct over the past 10 years, an indication that the LEOBR serves its purpose.

Police chiefs and sheriffs said they are willing to help the committee make adjustments to the statute if it will provide accountability and trust in the administrative process.

“We have a perception problem that we don’t fire bad cops, but I think we do fire bad cops,” said Phil Hinkle, an attorney and chief of staff for the Charles County Sheriff’s Office. “If opening up the hearings [when a police officer goes before a trial board], if that’s what it’s going to take to help the perception, bring it on.”

Del. Curt Anderson (D-Baltimore City), the committee co-chairman, asked several chiefs whether their trial boards are open to the public. Prince George’s officials said their hearings are open to the public but are not advertised.

Hinkle said his office had no concerns with shortening the 10-day rule to five days or even three days.

Del. C.T. Wilson (D-Charles) said one of the biggest complaints he has heard from constituents about police brutality is the amount of time officers are given before they are required to cooperate with an investigation.

“We have to find a middle ground,” Wilson said, adding that an officer has a year and a day to file an assault charge against a suspect and that the same time frame should be given to a person who accuses an officer of excessive force.

During a news conference before the hearing, advocates also raised concerns about the process by which the panel has gathered information over the past few months.

Marion Gray-Hopkins, a Prince George’s mother whose son, Gary A. Hopkins Jr., an unarmed college student, was killed in an altercation with police in 1999, said that she has no confidence in the panel’s work.

“I think it’s a dog and pony show,” she said.

The panel has held all its hearings in Annapolis. One town hall was held this past month to receive information from the public, but some who attended said they were not permitted to discuss their recommendations for changing policy, including the LEOBR.

“Having [hearings] in the middle of August in the middle of the day also makes it difficult for regular people to come out and let their voices be heard,” Dennis said, “and that’s who really needs to be heard on this issue, because people every day are having adverse run-ins with police wherein the system of accountability has shown to be broken.”