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Baltimore County News

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Keyword: sexual assault

By Kevin Kamenetz, Baltimore County Executive

For 90 days in Annapolis, we fought hard, testified at hearings, and made our case for Baltimore County. We secured a total of $942 million in State funding for education, health, public safety, transportation, school construction, road and infrastructure projects in our County. We fought for new laws to protect victims of sexual assault, combat skyrocketing drug prices, overhaul the cash bail system, grow our craft brewing industry, and protect the Bay by extending Maryland’s fracking ban. With strong support and advocacy from Baltimore County’s State delegates and senators, we brought it home from Annapolis.

State funding for County priorities

Baltimore County secured $841 million in State aid for education, libraries, the Community College of Baltimore County, health, public safety, recreation and open space. 

Why it matters  As Maryland’s third largest jurisdiction with a growing population, Baltimore County residents deserve their fair share of State funding. State and County funds protect and improve our quality of life, from 21st century libraries and community college to parks and open space for our neighborhoods. 

State funding for school construction

Secured $48.3 million in State matching funds toward public school construction. 

Why it matters  The County’s $1.3 billion Schools for Our Future school construction program will eliminate overcrowding, modernize facilities and add air conditioning. The ten-year initiative, the largest single school construction program in Maryland, is building 16 new schools, 12 additions, and 7 major renovations.

Easing traffic congestion to support job growth

Delivered $50 million in State funding for transportation projects in Owings Mills, Sparrows Point, White Marsh and around the beltway.  

Why it matters  Most of the Baltimore beltway is in Baltimore County. Funding beltway widening is critical to ease traffic congestion, especially during commuter rush hours. Other projects in key employment areas include the Dolfield Avenue interchange on I-795, widening Philadelphia Road from Mohrs Lane to Campbell Boulevard, and bus routes and bridge repair at Sparrows Point.

Supporting local breweries

Maryland craft brewers can now sell more beer at their production taprooms. 

Why it matters The new law opens opportunities for Baltimore County brewers Heavy Seas, Key Brewing, Du Claw and White Marsh Brewing Company. Coming soon: a new $50 million Guinness innovation brewery in Relay, bringing 70 jobs and a major tourist attraction for Baltimore County.

Combating high drug prices

The County supported a new law that allows the Maryland attorney general to sue drug companies when prices of generic drugs soar dramatically.

Why it matters We all pay when drug companies drive up their prices. Baltimore County insures thousands of local government workers.

Protect victims of sexual assault

“No means no.” We fought for a law that simplifies the definition of rape and sexual assault. Police departments now must store rape kits for 20 years.

Why it matters This new law puts the focus on the actions of the person accused of assault, not the victim, and preserves evidence for police and prosecutors during investigations. 

Overhauling the cash bail system

Supported a new State law that overhauls the cash-based bail system for defendants awaiting trial. 

Why it matters Defendants should not be penalized just because they can’t afford cash bail. The issues for a judge should be whether the defendant is a threat to the community and can be relied on to return to court.

Baltimore County does not operate in a vacuum. Policy and funding decisions at the State level have direct and often lasting impact on everyone living and working here. We will continue to fight for the resources that Baltimore County residents need and deserve. 

Protecting the Chesapeake

Supported extension of Maryland’s fracking ban.   

Why it matters Protecting the Chesapeake Bay and our water supply is fundamental.   

Baltimore County does not operate in a vacuum. Policy and funding decisions at the State level have direct and often lasting impact on everyone living and working here. We will continue to fight for the resources that Baltimore County residents need and deserve. 


Executive also to testify in support of statewide changes to sexual assault statutes

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz released the results of an independent review of the County’s police department policies and procedures in responding to sexual assault allegations.

On October 19, 2016, the County Executive announced that Lisae Jordan, Executive Director of the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MCASA) and former Baltimore County Circuit Court Judge Barbara Howe had agreed to review all unfounded rape cases from 2013, 2014, and 2015. Over the past four months, they reviewed 124 cases. As the report indicates,” the County did not oversee any aspect of the review, nor were the reviewers compensated by the County.”

“While I am gratified that the report stated that, ‘even in cases where one reviewer would not have classified a case as unfounded, they agreed that prosecution was not viable,’ there is always room for continual improvement in every organization,” said Kamenetz.

During his press conference on October 19, County Executive Kamenetz directed an immediate change to the County’s sexual assault investigatory policy. He announced, effective immediately, that every individual reporting a 2nd degree sexual assault charge, as well as the suspect, will be personally interviewed by a detective in the sex crimes unit. That action is one of the six recommendations in today’s report. “I am pleased that we were able to make this change even before the review began, and I embrace each of the six recommendations below,” concluded the County Executive.

Recommendations

The following recommendations are made on the basis of the review: 

1. The new policy requiring sex crimes detectives to interview both victims and suspects in sexual assault cases should be continued.  This policy ensures that sexual assault cases are consistently handled by detectives with specialized training.  This policy should apply to all cases involving investigations into violations of Criminal Law, Subtitle 3, Sexual Crimes, sexual abuse crimes in subtitle 6, and in cases involving investigations of sex trafficking. [1]  As part of this policy, cases involving a complaint of sexual assault should not be labeled "unfounded" unless a sex crimes detective has reviewed the case after investigation.

Administration Response: On October 19, 2016, County Executive Kamenetz directed the Baltimore County Police Department Special Victims Team (SVT) to immediately begin interviewing all victims and suspects involved in all Subtitle 3, Sexual Crimes, sexual abuse crimes in subtitle 6, and in cases involving investigations of sex trafficking with the exception of misdemeanors based upon age.

Response of the State’s Attorney’s Office: Agree that follow up interviews with specially trained sex offense detectives only enhance potential prosecution and provide the victims of sexual assault the services and attention they deserve.

2. Maryland’s sexual assault statutes should be clarified and modernized to make it clear that rape victims are not required to physically resist sexual assault.  Deficiencies in Maryland’s statutes that require “force or threat of force” are a major problem that contribute to the high unfounded rate in Baltimore County.

Administration Response:  The Administration supports changing Maryland’s sexual assault statute to eliminate the requirement for “physical force or threat of force.” County Executive Kamenetz will be testifying in support of Vice Chair Dumais’ House Bill 429.

Response of the State’s Attorney’s Office: Agree the County Executive and State’s Attorney will be supporting Senate Bill 217 that clarifies the law on physical resistance.  In addition, both will be supporting Senate Bill 349 that mandates the retention of DNA rape kits.

3. The Baltimore County Police Department should implement a system of tracking cases received from residential facilities, such as assisted living facilities, nursing homes, residential treatment centers, etc., to track trends and identify possible serial cases.  In addition, staff at these facilities should be trained on how to identify and respond to sexual assault cases within their facilities. 

Administration Response:  The Special Victims Team will begin tracking cases involving residential facilities. We agree that the staff at such facilities should receive training related to sexual assault, and that it should be the responsibility of the licensing entity to ensure that the standard is met.

4. The Baltimore County Police Department should receive intensive training in the following areas:

  • Responding to individuals with mental illness and cognitive disabilities;
  • Trauma-informed interviewing;
  • Cases involving intoxication.

Administration Response: The Administration agrees that all members of the Department should receive the recommended training, including the patrol officers who are the first responders to incidents of sexual assault. Baltimore County will also continue to work with MCASA to evaluate officer training in this area. This training will go hand in hand with the County’s recent work in collaboration with the Council of State Governments to improve its responses to individuals suffering behavioral health issues.

5. Communication between sex crimes detectives and the Baltimore County State’s Attorney’s Office should be increased and documented.  Communication with prosecutors is particularly important in cases involving interpretations of the law on force and in cases involving “mentally incapacitated individuals” under Criminal Law §3-301(c).

Administration Response:  The Baltimore County Police Department has already formalized and developed a clear documentation system for enhanced communication between its Special Victims Team (SVT) and the State’s Attorney’s Office.

Response of the State’s Attorney’s Office: Agree the State’s Attorney’s Office will make all final legal decisions in all sexual assault cases and will document and retain those decisions. This process has already been implemented.

6. The County’s Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) should be strengthened and law enforcement should be required to attend.  Sexual Assault Response Teams provide a forum to discuss policies and procedures to ensure that sexual assault survivors receive trauma-informed responses.

Administration Response: The Baltimore County Police Department has been a voluntary participant in every SART meeting for more than 12 years. This Administration will continue to ensure that the Police Department remains an active participant in the SART for the foreseeable future. The Baltimore County Police Department and County administration are also committed to working with local sexual assault programs and other SART partners.

Response of the State’s Attorney’s Office: The Baltimore County Police Department and the State’s Attorney’s Office have been active members of SART and are committed to remaining active going forward. The State’s Attorney’s Office is also committed to working with local sexual assault programs and other SART partners.

[1] We note that cases involving sexual abuse of children are currently appropriately assigned to detectives with specialized training in these cases. 

 

 

School construction and transportation funding top the list

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz unveiled a wide-ranging agenda for the upcoming 2017 General Assembly session that begins this Wednesday. “Funding of school construction and transportation projects remain an important priority for the county,” said Kamenetz. “In addition, I look forward to working with legislators on several statewide issues such as sexual assault, fracking, and bail reform that have implications for Baltimore County but also the rest of the state.”


 
 
Revised September 26, 2016