“Mayor Scott is Weakening Police Accountability in Baltimore by Opposing support of SB441/HB991”
BALTIMORE, MD – Major coalitions stood united today in front of the City Hall demanding that Mayor Brandon Scott and the Maryland General Assembly’s Baltimore City Delegation support passage of SB441/HB991. The Campaign for Justice, Safety and Jobs, the Baltimore based coalition that includes over 30 community, faith-based, civil rights, and grassroots organizations, and the statewide Maryland Coalition for Justice & Police Accountability (numbering over 100 organizations throughout the state of MD), were united in support of SB441/HB991. The bill would increase police oversight and accountability in Baltimore, a city that has been plagued by police misconduct and brutality and currently under a consent decree imposed by the Department of Justice after its investigation of the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) that followed the police killing of Freddy Gray and the outcry from Baltimore residents demanding justice.
SB441/HB991, sponsored by Senator Jill Carter and Delegate Stephanie Smith, would unite the existing Civilian Review Board and the Police Accountability Board. Without it, Baltimore City will have two weaker, overlapping, and less effective boards.
“With a firm eye on reforming Baltimore’s policing systems and holding officers accountable, the demand for transparency and community engagement has been our coalition’s timeless ask,” said Lydia Walther – Rodriguez, Co-Convener of CJSJ and CASA Baltimore/Central MD Region Director.
Baltimore residents impacted by police misconduct, activists, legal advocates, civil rights and grassroots groups chanted for Mayor Scott to be inclusive of community voices and feedback in this crucial process. Community members and activists, who have been tirelessly advocating for Police Reform in Baltimore city for decades, call for his immediate support of SB44/HB991. They pointed to how the police have long taken advantage of the lack of oversight, with the flagrant offenses and criminal behavior from the Police Department’s Gun Trace Task Force.
“For years our advocacy has focused on ensuring BPD is held accountable by an oversight entity reflective of those residents filing a complaint. To lose any of the components of Oversight that the citizens of Baltimore have fought for, once again diminishes any trust that our City is willing to hold its police department accountable to the residents they are sworn and paid to serve,” said Ray Kelly, Director, Civilian Policing Project.
The Civilian Review Board cannot now provide the robust oversight Baltimore City needs because it is hampered by restrictions on the types of misconduct cases it can investigate, inadequate financial resources, and the conflict of interest inherent in their legal counsel also representing the Baltimore City Police Department. The Police Accountability Board, on the other hand, would lack the independent investigative authority and subpoena power that the CRB has, yet could investigate all police misconduct cases. SB441/HB991 provides the solution by combining these powers.
“After my son was killed by BPD, I’ve spent my life working towards police accountability,” said Darlene Cain, founder of Mothers on the Move. “Now more than ever we need a partner, a fighter, a champion out of Mayor Scott, and we are alarmed that he has opposed this critical legislation.”
The event comes after the Campaign for Justice Safety and Jobs (CJSJ) sent a letter to Mayor Scott asking him to publicly support bill SB44/HB991. Instead the Mayor chose to oppose the bill.
“The position that the city has taken demonstrates a lack of understanding of the policies that govern policing in MD. Their position moves Baltimore in the opposite direction of community oversight,” Dayvon Love, Director of Public Policy Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle.
The Baltimore based Campaign for Justice, Safety, and Jobs (CJSJ) is a diverse group of community, faith instructions, policy advocates, civil rights, and local grassroots organizations who have come together to raise our voices in a call for Justice, Safety, and Jobs. The group convened in April of 2015 in the wake of Freddie Gray’s murder at the hands of Baltimore Police officers to address the systemic issues that were unearthed in Freddie Gray’s death and the subsequent uprising throughout the city. To date, the campaign includes over 30 powerful organizations representing thousands of Marylanders from Baltimore fighting for police accountability and reform.
The Maryland Coalition for Justice and Police Accountability is an alliance of over 100 organizations statewide who are seeking police accountability through legislative change.