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Keyword: 2019

Grant Will Improve the County's System for Investigating Sexual Assaults

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski today announced that the Hackerman Foundation has awarded $300,000 in grant funding to Baltimore County and the Baltimore County Police Department to support cold case sexual assault investigations and improve current and future investigations.

This new funding will support key recommendations from the Baltimore County Sexual Assault Investigations Task Force’s recently released final report to make improvements in several areas of sexual assault investigations.

“We commit to doing everything we can to seek justice for survivors of sexual assault. This grant provides critical support for investigators as they work to secure justice and closure for victims who have been waiting years, or even longer,” said County Executive Olszewski. “I am grateful to the Hackerman Foundation for their generous support, which will help implement the recommendations made by our Task Force and provide resources to analyze cases, identify offenders, and make our communities safer.”

“Upon approval of this funding, the Baltimore County Police Department will be provided with the resources to implement several recommendations made by the Baltimore County Sexual Assault Investigations Task Force," said Baltimore County Police Chief Melissa Hyatt. "Our victims deserve a complete and thorough investigation in every case. This funding will support this initiative.”

The advancement of technology has led to substantial value in evaluating old cases for testing or renewed testing. The grant funding will support critical areas of need for cold cases, including:

  • Testing of GBMC slides. In the 1970s, GBMC emergency room physician Dr. Rudiger Breitenecker recognized the value of evidence from sexual assault survivors and preserved evidence on microscope slides. Dr. Breitenecker continued this collection practice into the early 1990s when the standardized SAFE exam emerged. These slides are maintained at GBMC and previous testing have proven viable for DNA testing which have led to the conviction of several offenders for decades-old crimes. This new funding will support testing of slides in order to attempt to further identify DNA and FBI profiles.
  • Applying modern DNA analysis procedures on cases that have been entered into the FBI CODIS.
  • Funding to test SAFE Kits from prior to April 30, 2018 to expand efforts to test every eligible kit.
  • Staffing, travel, and training for Special Victims staff personnel skilled in the area of investigations to manage increased workload and expedite processing of cases.
  • Technology and other department equipment

This is the latest effort from the Olszewski Administration to improve Baltimore County’s system for investigating sexual assaults.

In February 2019, County Executive Olszewski formed the Sexual Assault Investigations Task Force to examine current investigation and prosecution policies. Earlier this month, the Task Force issued their final recommendations, including to increase capacity to test SAFE kits, establish cold case investigations, develop and implement a comprehensive training plan, and to seek funding sources to assist in these endeavors.

Maryland State Delegate Shelly Hettleman, representing District 11 in Baltimore County, has been a dedicated advocate for several legislative initiatives to positively impact sexual assault investigations. Delegate Hettleman, aware of funding limitations, was critical in orchestrating discussions with the Hackerman Foundation regarding this project.

“Survivors of sexual assault deserve to know that their stories will be taken seriously and that their rapists will be held accountable. We’ve made real progress at the state level to make sure there will be thorough, consistent investigations of sexual assault, and I’m heartened to see the County making progress as well. Even decades old trauma needs closure, and with this support from the Hackerman Foundation, Baltimore County will be able to help some survivors get closure.”

The Hackerman Foundation was established in honor and memory of Nancy Hackerman’s father, Willard Hackerman. Mr. Hackerman was the CEO and longtime President of Whiting-Turner Contracting Company. Mr. Hackerman and his wife, Lillian Patz Hackerman, were generous supporters of many universities and hospitals throughout Maryland, as well as national institutions. They also established scholarship funds for local students. The Hackerman Foundation was established in order to continue in their legacy of generous giving.

The grant will go before the Baltimore County Council on November 4, 2019.

James R. Benjamin, Jr., Joins Leadership Team

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski today announced that James R. Benjamin, Jr., will join his leadership team as County Attorney.

Current County Attorney Michael Field has been named Senior Policy Advisor in the Office of the County Executive.

"James brings a wealth of experience in litigation, deep knowledge in a variety of areas relevant to local government, and has been a trusted advisor to small, minority and women-owned businesses. I'm honored that an attorney and community leader of his caliber is joining our team," Olszewski said.

"Mike Field has a remarkable grasp of the law and public policy, and a tireless commitment to social justice. I'm pleased that he will continue as a part of our team as he shifts into a different role, advising on legislation and policy," Olszewski said.

Benjamin is currently a member of the Business, Litigation and EMERGE Teams at Gordon Feinblatt LLC. He handles environmental and administrative matters for his clients and regularly counsels clients on state and local regulatory issues. He has substantial bench and jury trial experience and has represented clients in complex toxic tort litigation at both the trial and appellate levels. In addition, he has significant experience representing and advising small, minority-owned and women-owned businesses on certification and procurement matters, as well as in structuring and creating joint ventures and teaming arrangements.

Benjamin was a former law clerk for the Honorable Ellen M. Heller in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City. He also served as an Assistant City Solicitor with the Baltimore City Law Department's Land Use and Litigation divisions where he handled complex legal matters involving constitutional law and exhaustion of administrative remedies. He is a graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park, and University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law.

Benjamin dedicates significant time to community and civic engagement, serving as a member of the Board of Visitors of the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law and the University of Maryland College Park's College of Behavioral and Social Sciences. He serves on the Judge Alexander Williams Center for Education, Justice and Ethics Board of Directors, and on the board of the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland. He previously co-chaired Baltimore City's Working Group on the Use and Implementation of Body-Worn Cameras in 2014 and 2015, and was a member of the Baltimore County Charter Review Commission in 2016 and 2017. He has also served on the Maryland State Ethics Commission.

Mike Field has served as County Attorney since 2010. He first joined the Baltimore County Office of Law in 1997 to conduct the decennial Code Revision, and subsequently redesigned and rewrote the County Code. He has served as counsel to the Ethics Commission, the Landmarks Preservation Commission and the Animal Hearing Board.

Field has drafted every major piece of legislation introduced by any county executive since 2005, and has been involved in the drafting of many county regulations. As Senior Policy Advisor, Field will continue to advise on and draft legislation, as well as oversee efforts to put the complete Code of Baltimore County Regulations online for the first time.

Field is a graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park, and the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law.

Benjamin's appointment as County Attorney must be approved by the County Council.

As Baltimore County Looks to Expand Transit Access, Survey Will Gather Resident Input and Ideas

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski today released a transportation survey that will allow County residents to share information about the transportation challenges they face, and solicit input and ideas about how those challenges can be addressed.

The survey is a step in a larger effort to increase transit options for County residents and identify other opportunities to help people get around more easily and efficiently.

"How easily people can get around has a major impact on quality of life, but for too long Baltimore County has been focused on roads alone," Olszewski said. "We're changing the narrative by investing in things like transit and bike lanes and looking for innovations that can better serve County residents."

The Baltimore region is one of the 20 most congested areas in the United States, with the average commute time topping 30 minutes. For residents who travel by MTA bus, commute times are often much longer. However, while some other large jurisdictions in Maryland operate extensive Locally Operated Transit Systems, Baltimore County's CountyRide is limited in service and scope. CountyRide operates on-demand rather than with fixed routes, and it serves only the county's older adults and residents with disabilities.

Investing in the Transportation Infrastructure

In his Fiscal Year 2020 Budget, Olszewski included funds to begin planning a Towson Circulator pilot, with plans to expand to other commercial corridors.

In addition, in his Consolidated Transportation Program request to the Maryland Department of Transportation, Olszewski asked for state support in line with what other counties receive in order to invest in the infrastructure to begin expanding the County's transit system.

The request also included items to address traffic concerns in areas around the County and accommodate past and future planned growth, including a long-needed interchange at Interstate 795 and Dolfield Boulevard—a request the County has made since 2007.

Beyond transit and roads, Olszewski included in his budget the first ever line item for bike and pedestrian features.

In addition, Olszewski has taken steps to add capacity within government to more effectively plan transportation projects and identify opportunities for innovation. He has hired a lead transportation planner within the Department of Public Works and taken steps to build a transportation bureau within the department.

Residents can take the survey online. For more information about transportation in the County, listen to the latest episode of The County podcast.

Revised September 11, 2017