City council committee approves mayor’s candidates for board of directors to study local control of BPD
A Baltimore City Council committee unanimously endorsed Mayor Brandon Scott’s nominees for a panel to study the Baltimore Police Department’s potential transition from state control to local control after a series of interviews Thursday.
The approval brings the Local Control Advisory Council closer to the start of its work.
Unlike the rest of Maryland’s local governments, officials in the city of Baltimore have no control over the policies or practices of the police department. The mayor can hire the police commissioner and, according to a law that Scott introduced as chairman of the city council, must release a crime prevention plan.
The General Assembly passed a bill in its last session that would question whether the city should regain control of its most costly department to voters as early as 2022.
Scott appointed Ray Kelly, executive director of the Citizen’s Policing Project; Tre Murphy, co-founder of Organizing Black and deputy director of community organizing for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund; Ashiah Parker, Executive Director of the No Boundaries Coalition; Lydia Walther-Rodriguez, Baltimore Regional Director for CASA; Mark Washington, executive director of Coldstream Homestead Montebello Community Corporation and Caylin Young, director of public policy at the ACLU of Maryland, who previously worked for Scott as a legislative assistant.
The vote came after the council’s rules and legislative oversight committee asked candidates about their experiences and general views on policing. City Councilor Mark Conway asked candidates about their familiarity with the respective state and city powers of the agency. Councilor Sharon Green Middleton asked candidates about their specific goals for the board.
Councilor Eric Costello asked the candidates what their positions were on funding and abolishing BPD, which led to a discussion between council members and Murphy on the definition of “abolish”.
Murphy said he was in favor of ceding BPD resources and toward the social issues that fuel crime.
“I’m very clear that in order for us to be able to build a new system… there still has to be some sort of system in place right now,” he said. “I think it would be an understatement to say that the chief of the police department and the police in general have become a catch-all for all the responsibilities that are not given to other departments in the city.”
Kelly, an advocate for public safety and West Baltimore police reform who has been pushing for local control for nearly a decade, said he hoped local control would strengthen communities’ access to the department. .
“I would love to see a process created that not only does what is in the best interest of the community, but also asks the community what its best interest is,” Kelly said.
Walther-Rodriguez, an immigrant from Panama, said she wanted to bring the voices and perspectives of the Baltimore immigrant community to the board.
“The expertise I can bring to the table is how [BPD’s structure] has a direct impact on our status as a city in terms of being a local and urban buy versus a sanctuary city, ”she said. “I see it.
Costello told Murphy and Walther-Rodriguez he was wary of their interest in the possibility of abolishing BPD, but trusted Scott’s judgment to appoint them to the board.
The nominees will now go to the full board.