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City Council Committee Approves Mayor’s Nominees To Board Tasked With Studying Local Control Of BPD

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From left to right: Lydia Walther-Rodriguez, Caylin Young and Tre Murphy speak before the Baltimore City Council's Rules and Legislative Oversight Committee at a Thursday night hearing. The three, along with Mayor Brandon Scott's other nominees to the Local Control Advisory Board, received unanimous approval from the committee.

A Baltimore City Council committee unanimously approved Mayor Brandon Scott’s nominees to a panel tasked with studying the potential transition of the Baltimore Police Department from state to local control after a series of Thursday interviews.

The approval puts the Local Control Advisory Board one step closer to beginning its work.

Unlike the rest of Maryland’s local governments, Baltimore City officials have no control over the police department’s policies or practices. The mayor can hire the Police Commissioner and, per a law Scott introduced as City Council President, must release a crime prevention plan.

The General Assembly passed a bill in its last session that would put the question of whether the city should take back control of its most costly department to voters as soon as 2022.

Scott nominated Ray Kelly, executive director of the Citizen's Policing Project; Tre Murphy, a cofounder of Organizing Black and the Deputy Director of Community Organizing for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund; Ashiah Parker, the executive director of the No Boundaries Coalition; Lydia Walther-Rodriguez, the Baltimore Regional Director for CASA; Mark Washington, Executive Director at Coldstream Homestead Montebello Community Corporation and Caylin Young, the Director of Public Policy at the ACLU of Maryland, who previously worked for Scott as a legislative aide.

The vote came after the council’s Rules and Legislative Oversight Committee grilled nominees about their experiences and general opinions about policing. Councilman Mark Conway asked nominees about their familiarity with the state and city’s respective powers of the agency. Councilwoman Sharon Green Middleton asked nominees about their specific goals for the board.

Councilman Eric Costello asked nominees what their stances on both defunding and abolishing BPD are, which led to a discussion amid council members and Murphy about the definition of “abolish.”

Murphy said he is in favor of divesting resources away from BPD and toward the social issues that fuel crime.

“I am very clear that in order for us to get to a place of building a new system...there still has to be a kind of system in place right now,” he said. “I think it would be an understatement to say that the police department head and police officers in general have become a catch all for all of the responsibilities that are not put out in other city services.”

Kelly, a public safety and police reform advocate from West Baltimore who’s been pushing for local control for nearly a decade, said he hopes that local control would bolster the access that communities have to the department.

“I'd like to see the creation of a process that not only does what's in the best interests of the community, but also asks the community what its best interest is,” Kelly said.

Walther-Rodriguez, an immigrant from Panama, said she wants to bring the voices and perspectives of Baltimore’s immigrant community to the board.

“The expertise I can bring to the table is how [BPD’s structure] directly impacts our status as a city as it relates to being a local and city purchase versus a sanctuary city,” she said. “I see this.

Costello told Murphy and Walther-Rodriguez that he's wary of their interest in the possibility of abolishing BPD but that he trusted Scott’s judgement in nominating them to the board.

The nominees will now go before the entire council.

Emily Sullivan is a city hall reporter at WYPR, where she covers all things Baltimore politics. She joined WYPR after reporting for NPR’s national airwaves. There, she was a reporter for NPR’s news desk, business desk and presidential conflicts of interest team. Sullivan won a national Edward R. Murrow Award for an investigation into a Trump golf course's finances alongside members of the Embedded team. She has also won awards from the Chesapeake Associated Press Broadcasters Association for her use of sound and feature stories. She has provided news analysis on 1A, The Takeaway, Here & Now and All Things Considered.