BALTIMORE, MD – The Police Accountability Board Bill (PAB) was signed into law yesterday by Mayor Brandon Scott, following dozens of community members flooding the bill's public hearings and voicing concerns of the bill's original language – causing major community amendments to be added to the bill.
Lydia Walther-Rodriguez, CASA Baltimore/Central MD Region Director & Convener of CJSJ, released the following statement in response to the signing:
"The Campaign for Justice, Safety, and Jobs (CJSJ), and the Maryland Coalition for Justice and Police Accountability (MCJPA) called on the City Council upon seeing the first PAB draft to make critical changes to the bill based on community concerns (original letter). A majority of the community amendments were won thanks to hard fought community efforts – including adding a special participatory seat for a youth member into the board and striking down the membership criteria which would have disqualified returning citizens and immigrants to be nominated to serve on the board. The final bill did exclude independent counsel language, a key resource needed in order for there to be true oversight of police misconduct reports."
Community coalitions were originally concerned with the City Council's proposal to include former police officers on the board, questioning whether a conflict of interest would allow proper community oversight. The city compromised in providing a cap of only two former officers who could possibly serve on the board if nominated. It will now be up to the city council's nominations as to whether any former officers are even nominated to serve on the board.
"We are calling on all City Council members to be transparent in their nomination process and refrain from nominating any former police officers into the board. A seat to a former officer can cause intimidation and lack of reporting by residents hoping to file police misconduct reports," said Ray Kelly, Citizens Policing Project.
"City residents, like myself, whose families will forever be impacted by police misconduct, continue pushing our city to improve police accountability. City Council needs to ensure those impacted by police misconduct can trust this board to deliver justice, and receive a priority seat on the table," said Darlene Cain, Mothers on a Move.
The Baltimore based Campaign for Justice, Safety, and Jobs (CJSJ) is a diverse group of community, faith instructions, policy advocates, civil rights, and local grassroots organizations who have come together to raise our voices in a call for Justice, Safety, and Jobs. The group convened in April of 2015 in the wake of Freddie Gray’s murder at the hands of Baltimore Police officers to address the systemic issues that were unearthed in Freddie Gray's death and the subsequent uprising throughout the city. To date, the campaign includes dozens of powerful organizations representing thousands of Marylanders from Baltimore fighting for police accountability and reform. The Maryland Coalition for Justice and Police Accountability is an alliance of over 100 organizations statewide who are seeking police accountability through legislative change.