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Police Reform Legislation Coming Back To Baltimore County Council

Baltimore County Councilman Julian Jones

A controversial package of police reforms will be back before the Baltimore County Council next month, despite the council’s 4-3 vote Monday night to table it.

Democratic Councilman Julian Jones said he will break up the bill to force individual council votes on key parts of his now-tabled legislation, including banning chokeholds, making it harder to hire a police officer who had been dismissed in another jurisdiction, and protecting an officer who intervenes when he sees another officer use excessive force.

Jones said Monday night’s council vote was embarrassing.

“It became clear to me that the powers-that-be had no interest in any reform,” he said.

Council members who voted Monday night to table the legislation said they did so because the police department is taking steps to reform itself. Also, the council should hold off because the state legislature is looking at the issue.

The Baltimore County Police Blue Guardians, a group representing minority police officers, sent council members an email saying they did not support Jones’ legislation.  Guardian members said legislation would be more effective at the state level.

Council members also objected to parts of the legislation that dealt with police tactics, such as where a police officer should stand when approaching a car that’s been pulled over. Jones said he was willing to give up those parts of the legislation to try to get it to pass before Monday night’s vote to table the bill.

“In the world of politics people try to pull up things that are generally not true but they try to muddy the waters and throw everything at it and try to defeat it,” Jones said.

Baltimore County Council Chairwoman Cathy Bevins, who voted to table the legislation, did not return a text asking for comment.

Jones has been able to get a lot of community support for police reform legislation, but the original bill also was criticized by Police Chief Melissa Hyatt and Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger, who at a hearing last week called the legislation unworkable.

“To tell an officer what they can and cannot do at 2 o’clock in the morning when they’re rolling around on a road trying to save their own life, I think is truly unfair, Shellenberger said. “We don’t do it with any other profession. We don’t tell people how they have to behave when their life is in danger.”

Jones plans to introduce his separate police reform bills at the council’s September 8 meeting.

John Lee is a reporter for WYPR covering Baltimore County. @JohnWesleyLee2
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