County Councilman Todd Crandell has announced he will not support the SMART Policing Act, a police reform initiative introduced last week by County Executive John Olszewski Jr.
“Unless Bill 96-20, the SMART Policing Act, is significantly amended, I will most likely be the only County Council member to vote ‘No’,” said Crandell, a Republican who represents the 7th District (Dundalk-Edgemere and part of Essex), in a statement on Tuesday.
The bill will be discussed on Sept. 29 and voted upon on Oct. 2.
Crandell described the bill as “about politics, not public safety.”
It bans the use of all neck restraints by police, including chokeholds, unless a person’s life is in immediate jeopardy. The bill also requires police render aid or call for medical care for any individual in police custody who has an obvious injury or complains of an injury.
Also required by the SMART Policing Act are policies to limit use of force; obligating officers to intervene to stop fellow officers from using excessive force and to report the use of force; protections to prohibit retaliations against officers who report excessive force; additional training for officers at risk of engaging in excessive force; authorizing the Chief of Police to select up to two civilians to serve on a police hearing board; and requiring public access to ‘use of force’ data and police-involved shootings.
“If you remember, the first attempt at “police reform” legislation this summer was tabled by four members of the Council, including myself,” Crandell wrote. “The measures in that legislation were so cumbersome and unworkable that the bill was opposed by the Baltimore County Police Chief, the State’s Attorney, and the Fraternal Order of Police. I voted to table that bill in case it had any possibility of passage.
“Bill 96-20, given an acronym that’s hard to disagree with, is a watered down version of the original bill. Most of what 96-20 calls for is already being done by long-standing police department policy and procedures or announced by the County Executive as new initiatives in early June.”
According to statistics posted by the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #4 (Baltimore County), county police have shown a significant improvement in a number of areas over the 10-year period from 2010-19.
Despite a steady increase of calls for service (a total of 6,236,403, rising from 604,706 in 2010 to 749,403 in 2019) and the county population rising from 801,700 to 835,000, there has been a large drop in the number of arrests, uses of force by county officers and citizen complaints.
Arrests have dropped from 33,898 in 2010 to 21,689 in 2019, with each year showing a decrease from the previous year and trending downward 35 percent during the decade.
Uses of force decreased from 329 in 2010 to 249 in 2019 (for a total of 2,934 incidents over 10 years), while citizen complaints fell from 128 to 50 (877 total).
That is an average of 293 uses of force per year, which is less than once use of force per day. Additionally, force was reported used in ,047 percent of all calls for service and 1.105 percent of all arrests.
“This does not sound like a police department in need of reform, but one that should be honored,” Crandell wrote.
According to county Internal Affairs, county police were involved in 60 combat shootings over the 10-year period; an average of six per year.
“I do not see a reason to legislate those policies and procedures, especially when most laws governing how local police operate are federal and state statutes,” Crandell wrote. “In fact, the House of Delegates’ Work Group on Addressing Police Reform & Accountability in Maryland will make recommendations to the General Assembly later this year.
“Anything passed by the General Assembly will in all probability supersede whatever Baltimore County enacts. So if 96-20 duplicates what is already being done and may be rendered obsolete by state law, why not just go along with my colleagues and vote Yes instead of being the lone ‘No’ vote (again.)?
“Here’s why: I represent the people of the 7th District, a community that supports our men and women in Blue. To have BCPD cast as an agency somehow in need of reform is an insult to them, and I believe police work is difficult enough without politician’s unwarranted interference.”
During the press conference last week introducing the SMART Act, county council members Cathy Bevins (6th District), David Marks (5th District), Izzy Patoka (2nd District), Wade Kach (3rd District), Tom Quirk (1st District) and Julian Jones Jr. (4th District) spoke in favor of the legislation.