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Bill bans chokeholds, limits use of force, expands de-escalation, and increases transparency to modernize policing in Baltimore County

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski, County Councilman Julian Jones, and other members of the Baltimore County Council today announced the Strengthening Modernization, Accountability, Reform, and Transparency (SMART) Policing Act, a comprehensive package of initiatives to improve and modernize policing in Baltimore County while strengthening community relations.

“We’ve heard from the public and the time to act is now. With the SMART Policing Act, Baltimore County will ban chokeholds, strengthen training in de-escalation, ensure there are limits on use of force, and increase transparency,” said Councilman Julian Jones, who will formally introduce the SMART Policing Act at the Baltimore County Council Meeting scheduled for tonight, September 8. “I value and respect the great men and women of the Baltimore County Police Department, and this commonsense bill will help ensure they receive the right training and policies to serve and protect every member of every community.”

“We are living in a moment that demands action, and I am proud to join Councilman Jones and his colleagues in support of the SMART Policing Act to strengthen accountability and promote more equitable policing for all,” said Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski. “We announced unprecedented reforms in June, which began the process of improving transparency and strengthening relationships between law enforcement and the communities they serve. Today, we’re coming together united in Baltimore County’s next step forward in the ongoing fight for equal justice.”

The SMART Policing Act:

  • Modernizes Policing Tactics by:

    • Banning the use of all neck restraints, including chokeholds, unless a person’s life is in immediate jeopardy.

    • Requiring a policy specifying that officers render aid or call for medical care for any individual in police custody who has an obvious injury or complaint of injury.

    • Requiring the Baltimore County Police Department to introduce policy affirming the sanctity of life and the dignity and value of all persons.

  • Enhances and Enshrines Reforms on Use of Force by:

    • Requiring the Department to introduce policies to limit the use of force.

    • Requiring the Department to introduce policy obligating officers to intervene to stop fellow officers from using excessive force and report uses of force.

    • Providing protections to prohibit retaliation against those who report misconduct.

    • Requiring the Department to implement an early intervention system to provide officers at-risk of engaging in the use of excessive force with additional training or other behavioral interventions.

  • Improves Training and Accountability by:

    • Barring individuals with prior disciplinary records in other jurisdictions or agencies from serving as a Baltimore County Police Officer.

    • Requiring annual training in de-escalation, implicit bias, and the use of force.

  • Expands Transparency by:

    • Authorizing the Chief of Police to select up to two members of the public to serve on a police hearing board. Due to state law, final approval of the membership is subject to collective bargaining.

    • Requiring collection and public access to use of force data and police involved shootings.

“This is a critical time and we have a responsibility to do whatever we can to expand community based policing, promote crime reduction, and build public trust across Baltimore County. The SMART Policing Act will make an already strong police department even stronger,” said County Council Chair Cathy Bevins.

"I would like to thank all those who came together to support this legislation that continues robust law enforcement, in a smart manner that is sensitive to all our communities," said Councilman David Marks.

“Like so many, I’ve been inspired by the advocacy of our young people in calling for change. This important piece of legislation reaffirms our commitment to them by strengthening community relations for this generation — and for future generations,” said Councilman Izzy Patoka.

“The Baltimore County Police Department is already taking important steps designed to strengthen and assist our Department and our officers. This legislation will help ensure these actions are codified in law and protected for years to come. It is so important that our Police and communities continue to work together for the benefit of all,” said Councilman Wade Kach.

“I’m grateful for the work the brave men and women of the Baltimore County Police Department do each and every day to protect our residents and am proud of the Department’s ongoing work to improve transparency and accountability. I appreciate all those who have added their voices this legislation which will build on those efforts as we continue to work with our state legislators on additional next steps to improve policing in every neighborhood,” said Councilman Tom Quirk.

The SMART Policing Act is the latest effort from Baltimore County to improve accountability and strengthen relations between law enforcement officers and the communities they serve.

In June, County Executive Olszewski announced an unprecedented series of executive actions to address systemic challenges in the police department and promote more equitable policing, by:

  • Updating Use of Force policy. The Department has introduced policies that would be codified in law by the SMART Policing Act, including:

    • Affirming the sanctity of life.

    • Providing training in de-escalation, implicit bias, and the use of force.

    • Requiring officers in to intervene to stop fellow officers from using excessive force and report uses of force.

  • Implementing Fair and Impartial Police Training Curriculum for all Department members.

  • Increasing transparency of complaint, use of force and traffic stop data. In the coming weeks, Baltimore County will release public dashboards displaying data on the complaints, instances of uses of force, and traffic stop data.

  • Supporting state legislation to amend the MPIA to increase transparency related to discipline cases.

  • Conducting independent analysis and review of Department hiring and recruitment practices.

  • Expanding the scope and duration of Equitable Policing Workgroup.

The SMART Policing Act will be officially introduced during the County Council session held on Tuesday, September 8, 2020.


County Executive Encourages School Board to Prioritize the Projects in Their Capital Planning

County Executive Johnny Olszewski has announced that he has identified funds in the Fiscal Year 2020 budget to begin the planning process for new buildings for Towson High School and Dulaney High School. While moving forward with construction will require additional resources from the state in the upcoming legislative session, the funds will allow the county to begin the preliminary planning work for these two high schools.

"Over the next decade, we expect to have 1,700 more students than seats in our county's high schools. Our students and families deserve safe, modern school facilities, and we have a responsibility to provide them," Olszewski said. "Education is and will always be my number one priority, and as our students return to school this week, I want them and their families to know that I will not rest until they have the resources they need to receive the best education possible. I encourage the Board of Education to prioritize these high school projects in their capital spending plan."

As part of his Fiscal Year 2020 Budget Message, Olszewski announced plans to develop a 10-year capital plan for school construction, which will ensure the county has a roadmap for equitable and effective allocation of school construction dollars.

"Families in these communities were promised during the previous administration that their students would benefit from much-needed new high school facilities, and I'm pleased to see that this county executive is committed to fulfilling that promise," said Councilman Wade Kach.

"Families in the Towson community deserve a school that can accommodate their needs—the current building doesn't do that. This announcement advances new high school construction in central Baltimore County, a goal shared by hundreds of students and families. I thank County Executive Olszewski for his support," said Councilman David Marks.

These funds for Towson and Dulaney are in addition to planning and design funds already allocated for Lansdowne High School, which remains the county's top high school construction priority. In addition, in his FY 2020 budget, Olszewski included the county's portion of construction funds for the remaining elementary and middle school projects planned as part of the Schools for Our Future program.

State Funding Will Move the Projects Forward

However, none of these projects can move forward without additional funds from the state. General Assembly leaders have indicated their commitment to allocating additional funds for school construction in the 2020 legislative session.

"This is a positive step forward for the Dulaney and Towson communities. The County Executive and Board of Education have been unwavering in their support, and this news is very welcome," said Yara Cheikh, Vice President of the Dulaney High School PTSA. "We plan to be partners in Annapolis this upcoming session with the County Executive's administration to advocate for additional state dollars for school construction projects across our County. We will be shovel-ready to move forward once all our funding is in place and that is very exciting."

Last week Olszewski joined members of the House Appropriations Committee as they toured schools in Baltimore County to gain a better understanding of the critical needs facing our school facilities.

"Last session I spent considerable time in Annapolis urging lawmakers to do right by our students and provide the dollars needed to build the schools that they need and deserve. I'm optimistic that next year they will take the necessary action so our students don't get left behind."


 
 
Revised October 16, 2020               
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