Compromise Reached On Police Reform In Baltimore County | WYPR

Compromise Reached On Police Reform In Baltimore County

Sep 8, 2020

Baltimore County Councilman Julian Jones, along with County Executive Johnny Olszewski and Council members Izzy Patoka, David Marks and Cathy Bevins at police reform news conference in Towson.
Credit John Lee

Baltimore County lawmakers struck a deal Tuesday to pass police reform legislation.

Last month, the county council shelved controversial reform legislation. Tuesday’s compromise has the support of the county executive, and six of the seven council members.

Some wording has been changed to get the compromise. For instance, Councilman Julian Jones’ original legislation banned chokeholds, period. The proposal announced Tuesday said they can be used in defense against death or serious bodily injury.

At a news conference in Towson on Tuesday, Jones said the new legislation takes into account the possibility that a police officer is not being malicious when a confrontation escalates.

“So there were concerns about those things being against the law and police officers being in violation of the law when they did not do anything intentionally wrong,” he said.

Jones said in an interview afterward that in the legislative process, you sometimes have to give things up to get proposals passed.

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski stayed mostly silent during last month’s council debate over police reform. Olszewski said at the time his administration was working with the police department to implement many of the changes Jones was calling for in his legislation.

At Tuesday’s news conference, Olszewski was asked why he now was on board supporting police reform legislation.

“As we were implementing them, we were out in the community, attending rallies, attending protests, and the community was loud and clear, that they wanted to see those changes enshrined in law,” he said. “And they were asking us to step forward to not only do it administratively, but ensure that those changes would not be changed by a future administration.”

Olszewski said the Baltimore County Fraternal Order of Police has been consulted about the new legislation. FOP President David Rose released a statement saying the organization supports the proposal. 

Among other things, the proposal also would protect a police officer who reports another officer for misconduct, would require annual de-escalation training, and would require an officer to get medical help for someone in custody who would need it.

Negotiations over the wording of the proposal were ongoing Tuesday, and a draft of the legislation was not made available to reporters at the news conference.

Republican Councilman Todd Crandell is the one council member who is not supporting the legislation. Crandell said in an interview that he was not invited to the news conference and did not receive a draft of the legislation in advance of it. Crandell opposed Jones’ first police reform proposal, as did three other council members who now are on board.

The legislation is to be introduced Tuesday night at the county council meeting with a vote expected in about a month.

Jones said he plans to introduce separate legislation that would restrict the use of "no-knock warrants." They allow police officers to enter a home without announcing who they are or why they're there. They are often used to keep suspects from destroying evidence.