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Keyword: sexual assault

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.


Review of Current Policies, National Best Practices and Recommendations

Following eight months of work, Baltimore County’s Sexual Assault Investigations Task Force today released its final report reviewing Baltimore County’s current policies, outlining national best practices and issuing recommendations to improve Baltimore County’s system for investigating sexual assaults.

Formed in February by Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski, the Sexual Assault Investigations Task Force was charged with reviewing practices and procedures related to sexual assault investigations and prosecution of allegations of sexual assault in Baltimore County, and making recommendations to improve those practices and procedures.

“People deserve to know that, when they are the victims of sexual assault, our law enforcement agencies will use every resource at our disposal to bring justice,” said Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski. “These recommendations will not sit on a shelf. I charged our taskforce with developing actionable recommendations that we can put into place quickly, and I’m grateful to the task force members for their diligent work in carrying out that charge.”

Task Force Composition

The Task Force included a diverse roster of talented and knowledgeable individuals, including:

  • Sheryl Goldstein, Task Force Chair
  • David Thomas, Program Manager, International Association of Chiefs of Police
  • Rosalyn Branson, CEO of TurnAround, Inc. 
  • Laura Clary, Program Manager, GBMC SAFE Program
  • John Cox, Deputy State's Attorney, Baltimore County State's Attorney’s Office
  • Lt. Brian Edwards, Commander of the Baltimore County Police Department’s Special Victims Unit
  • Nadia BenAissa, student at UMBC, co-chair of the Retriever Courage Student Advisory Committee and president of UMBC’s We Believe You survivor activist and advocacy group

“I applaud County Executive Olszewski’s leadership on this important issue and was honored to help lead the members of this task force who contributed their time and wisdom to this collaborative effort,” said Sexual Assault Investigations Task Force Chair Sheryl Goldstein. “This report provides clear, actionable recommendations that will build upon the reforms already underway to review and revise systems for handling sexual assault cases and improve outcomes for victims.”

Recommendations

The Sexual Assault Investigations Task Force’ report offers 23 recommendations for changes to policy and practices, including: 

  • Implementing a comprehensive sexual assault investigations policy to govern all sexual assault cases
  • Developing and implementing a uniform and centralized records system for its sexual assault cases. 
  • Continuing efforts to expand support for rape kit testing
  • Continuing to move towards a trauma-informed, victim-centered and offender-focused model of investigations.
  • Working with victim advocacy organizations and other non-profits, including TurnAround, Inc., to create a standardized protocol process for engaging with victims.     
  • Establishing standard procedures for handling incidents of sexual assault on college campuses or involving victims associated with these institutions. 
  • Increasing staffing of the County’s Special Victims Unit to better manage the caseload and best serve victims.  
  • Performing an audit of 911 calls for service for incidents of sexual assault annually
  • Reviewing all national best practice information provided by the Task Force and institute policies consistent with these best practices. 

Baltimore County will use the results of the study to guide efforts to improve Baltimore County’s sexual assault investigations.

The full Report of Findings and Recommendations (PDF) is available to download and read online.


County Executive Calls for $400 Million in Statewide School Construction Funding

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz will once again make school construction and transportation funding the linchpins of his legislative agenda for the upcoming General Assembly session.

Education

“There are significant needs for school construction and maintenance in every school district across the state,” said Kamenetz. “Governor Hogan’s current level of funding is simply inadequate. We must increase the statewide funding to at least $400 million, and we must do it now. Counties are unable to keep up with maintenance needs due to the lack of matching state funds. Our students and teachers deserve no less.”

Baltimore County’s request for school construction funding is $122 million.

Transportation

In October, the County Executive presented his transportation priorities to the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT), which included a $60 million request for projects in every region of the County. First and foremost in the request is the County Executive’s support for the Red Line. “While Governor Hogan continues to deplete the Transportation Trust Fund, people all over the state remain stuck in traffic.”

Paid Sick Leave

County Executive Kamenetz will work closely with members of the Baltimore County delegation and leadership in Annapolis on issues throughout the 90-day session. “I will start by doing whatever I can do to assist legislators in overriding Governor Hogan’s veto of the paid sick leave bill,” Kamenetz stated. “Governor Hogan’s refusal to give working families paid sick leave is outrageous, and I am confident the General Assembly will fight for working families despite the Governor.”

Renewable Energy

The County Executive will join clean energy advocates in their effort to ensure that Maryland reaches a 50 percent renewable energy portfolio by 2030. The current standard calls for a 25 percent use of renewables by 2020. “People all across the state want Maryland to be a leader in increasing its renewable energy commitment. You don’t do this by standing still, and I look forward to working with advocates and legislative leaders to move this initiative forward.”

Build on Last Year’s Success

During the 2017 session, Kamenetz worked closely with legislators to strengthen Maryland’s sexual assault laws, extend the fracking ban, support affordable prescription drug legislation and fight for the Trust Act. “People all across the state care about education, public safety, health care, and quality of life issues like environmental protection and renewable energy,” concluded Kamenetz. “If Governor Hogan won’t lead on these issues, the legislature will, and I will do whatever I can to support those efforts.”


 
 
Revised September 11, 2017