Giving the recommendations of the civilian review board more teeth, and fighting to ensure that Baltimore’s education funding levels do not take a hard hit in light of the state’s budget shortfalls are some of the key items on the Baltimore City delegation’s legislative agenda heading into 2015, according to Del. Curt Anderson, chair of the Baltimore City delegation to Maryland’s House of Delegates.
“As it stands now, they don’t have the power to do anything,” said Anderson of the Civilian Review Board, which oversees misconduct allegations against the police from the community.
Anderson spoke to the AFRO recently at a restaurant in his 43rd district, discussing the Baltimore-specific items the delegation has authority over and will pursue, as well as his thoughts on some statewide issues, including amendments to the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights, and legalization of marijuana.
Anderson says they will push to give Baltimore’s Civilian Review Board the subpoena power it currently lacks, an absence that has led to many criticisms that the board rarely accomplishes an accurate telling of the events it investigates. It is also necessary, Anderson says, to find a mechanism by which the review board’s recommendations will have greater authority.
“I don’t think we can make [the board’s] recommendations mandatory on the police commissioner, but it’s going to be somewhere in that area, because otherwise, what’s the point in having it?” said Anderson.
Asked whether he thought Baltimore’s City Council should be given more direct legal authority over the Baltimore Police Department (BPD), a sticking point in the council’s recent attempts to pass legislation requiring BPD officers to wear body cameras, Anderson gave an enthusiastic, “No,” saying the council’s body camera bill itself weighs against granting it more direct authority over the BPD, a state agency.
“The bill itself is absolutely inadequate, not thought out, and spur of the moment,” said Anderson.
With respect to body cameras, which is not a Baltimore specific agenda item, Anderson says the only thing the General Assembly is likely to do is to set uniform statewide parameters for their usage, so that all jurisdictions that adopt the technology are operating under the same policies and procedures for their use. He says we may also see amendments to the state’s wire tap statute to clear the way for implementation of police-worn body cameras.
Preserving the city’s level of public education funding will also be a priority for the Baltimore delegation, especially in light of the state’s budget shortfall. Anderson says there is an established formula designed to ensure adequate education funding for historically underfunded school districts, but that the O’Malley administration set a bad precedent where the formula is concerned.
“We don’t want to see that [formula] undermined, although O’Malley has already set a precedent by not funding it the way it should’ve been funded a couple times during his administration,” said Anderson. “I’m sure Republicans noticed that and said, ‘Well, if O’Malley can do it, why can’t we do it?’”
Returning to broader, statewide law enforcement issues, Anderson says he sees marijuana legalization coming to Maryland in 2016, but that he will submit a bill this session to that end nonetheless.
“It’s a legalization, a tax and taxation, and regulation of marijuana. We would have quality control on the type of marijuana that is being grown, overseen by a marijuana board, probably an extension of the board that exists now for medical marijuana; we’d have growers in the state of Maryland, licensed by Maryland, paying a tax to the comptroller, and then retailers who buy from those growers also paying a retail tax fee, and the parameters by which they can sell, to whom they can sell; and the tax that we would level per sale on marijuana,” said Anderson.
The bill would also likely contain a rider granting expungements to anyone convicted of simple possession over a period, perhaps 10 years, prior to legalization says Anderson.