Changes are coming to the Baltimore County Police Department.
After months of debate, the county council approved police reform legislation Monday night.
After Democratic Councilman Julian Jones’ first attempt at police reform failed in August, the legislation was reworked into a version that was approved Monday night by a 6-1 vote.
Among other things, the legislation will require that police officers receive annual training in de-escalation and the use of lethal force. Jones said it was important to make that law, and not leave it to the police department.
“Even if funding is tight, this training that’s required by law will move forward because we’ve codified that as well as everything else into law,” Jones said.
The legislation also spells out when police can use chokeholds and gives an officer whistleblower protection when reporting another officer is using excessive force.
Jones had considered proposing four last-minute amendments to the legislation he said would have made the police more accountable. He backed off on all but one of the amendments, because he did not have the votes. Jones has described the support he had on the council for police reform a “fragile majority” and pushing those amendments may have put the legislation in jeopardy.
The one amendment that did pass requires the police chief or a representative to appear before the council annually.
Jones said the chief will “report on the crime stats, report on all the things that would be in the use of force to the public and then accept questions and be able to get some feedback.”
Jones’ original legislation was shelved by the county council because members believed it went too far dictating what officers can and cannot do in the field. For example, the original proposal banned chokeholds. The legislation approved Monday night allows officers to use chokeholds and other neck restraints to defend themselves and others from being killed or seriously injured.
Republican Councilman David Marks, who voted for the legislation, said he received emails from people who criticized the council for working to find a compromise.
“It may be lost in other levels of government, but hopefully it isn’t gone in local government,” Marks said.
In a statement Monday night, County Executive Johnny Olszewski praised the council for passing police reform.
“This is not the end, but is another important step towards a more just and equitable future,” Olszewski said.
Republican Councilman Todd Crandell, who represents the Dundalk area of the county, was the one “no” vote. Crandell rejected the idea that the police department needed reform.
The legislation takes effect October 19.