Pugh wants civil­ians on po­lice trial boards

She says she’ll seek leg­is­la­tion over­rid­ing the ob­jec­tions of unions

Baltimore Sun - - NEWS - By Luke Broad­wa­ter lbroad­wa­ter@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/ luke­broad­wa­ter

State Sen. Cather­ine E. Pugh, the Demo­cratic nom­i­nee for Bal­ti­more mayor, says she wants the Gen­eral Assem­bly to strengthen a law that al­lows civil­ians to serve on pan­els that hear cases against po­lice of­fi­cers ac­cused of mis­con­duct.

The law, which takes ef­fect Oct. 1, al­lows civil­ians to join the in­ter­nal po­lice trial boards for the first time, if po­lice unions agree.

Sup­port­ers of the law say in­clud­ing civil­ians is nec­es­sary to hold of­fi­cers ac­count­able for mis­con­duct. But some unions are re­sist­ing.

In next year’s Gen­eral Assem­bly ses­sion, Pugh said, she plans to push for leg­is­la­tion that would al­low civil­ians to serve on a trial board with­out the ap­proval of the lo­cal lodge of the Fra­ter­nal Or­der of Po­lice.

“I know the FOP will not be happy with that,” Pugh told an au­di­ence of nearly 100 on Tues­day evening at the United Evan­gel­i­cal Church in Can­ton. “But un­til we al­low par­tic­i­pa­tion by in­di­vid­u­als who live in our com­mu­ni­ties, we will not get the co­or­di­na­tion that we need.”

Gene Ryan, pres­i­dent of the Bal­ti­more Lodge of the Fra­ter­nal Or­der of Po­lice, said the union is against al­low­ing civil­ians on the trial board here.

“They don’t know what we do in our pro­fes­sion,” Ryan said. “How can they sit in judg­ment of us? Would you want me sit­ting on a med­i­cal mal­prac­tice board when I don’t know what a doc­tor does?

Pugh’s two op­po­nents for mayor — Repub­li­can Alan Walden and Green Party can­di­date Joshua Har­ris — agreed at the fo­rum that there should be more civil­ian in­volve­ment in po­lice dis­ci­plinary ac­tions.

“Civil­ian in­volve­ment makes a good deal of sense, pro­vid­ing it does not over­whelm the agency,” Walden said.

Har­ris said he’d like to see civil­ians in­volved in sev­eral as­pects of the Po­lice De­part­ment, in­clud­ing hir­ing and train­ing.

“We need to put the com­mu­nity at the cen­ter of po­lice,” he said.

Bal­ti­more’s la­bor agree­ment with po­lice has ex­pired. The city’s po­lice union is ne­go­ti­at­ing with the ad­min­is­tra­tion of out­go­ing Mayor Stephanie Rawl­ings-Blake.

The sides have agreed not to dis­cuss the ne­go­ti­a­tions in pub­lic.

Trial boards, com­posed now of three po­lice of­fi­cers, act as an in­ter­nal court sys­tem for of­fi­cers ac­cused of wrong­do­ing. A trial board can rec­om­mend an of­fi­cer be fired, sus­pended or docked leave, but the po­lice com­mis­sioner has fi­nal say.

Civil­ians have been pro­hib­ited from serv­ing on the pan­els un­der the state Law En­force­ment Of­fi­cers’ Bill of Rights.

But the Gen­eral Assem­bly ap­proved leg­is­la­tion this year that al­lows lo­cal gov­ern­ments to add spe­cially trained civil­ians to the trial boards, sub­ject to the agree­ment of po­lice unions in cer­tain ju­ris­dic­tions, in­clud­ing Bal­ti­more.

Across the coun­try, civil­ians have been given a greater role in re­view­ing al­leged po­lice mis­con­duct. Wash­ing­ton, Chicago and Detroit all give civil­ians author­ity in dis­ci­plin­ing of­fi­cers.

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