For many years, victims of police brutality in Baltimore City have been paid settlements from public coffers in exchange for their silence. Non-disparagement clauses, aka gag orders, force victims who receive compensation to sacrifice their first amendment rights in exchange.
Not only does this cruel practice make individuals and families stay in the closet about their suffering, it keeps all Baltimoreans in the dark about police misconduct and discrimination. In this culture of secrecy, we usually don't know which officers are violating people's rights, what happened, or how much money taxpayers are spending to hush it up.
Thanks to a long legal struggle by Ashley Overbey, the ACLU, and the Baltimore Brew, these gag orders were found unconstitutional in a landmark ruling in July 2019. However, the case was only won on appeal, and a future judge could find differently. As such, it is imperative that we stop this practice by law.
On July 22nd of this year, Baltimore City Council President Brandon Scott and other members introduced the “Transparency and Oversight in Claims and Litigation” bill, which would end gag orders in Baltimore, as well as require the City's Law Department to provide regular reports on cases of police misconduct and discrimination, including amounts of settlements. This bill faces stiff opposition from other city leaders, including Mayor Jack Young and City Soliciter Andre Davis.
The groups working on this bill includes Runners for Justice, Not Without Black Women, ACLU, and the West Coalition. They are looking for victims of gag orders to anonymously share how these inhumane non-disclosure agreements have impacted them. If you would like to participate in this way, please contact email@example.com or private message Tawanda Jones or Justice for Tyrone West on Facebook.
Other ways you can help include spreading the word, attending the hearing and giving public testimony in support, and contacting your City Council members, particularly those on the Public Safety Committee, which is considering the bill. The chair of that committee is Isaac “Yitzy” Schleifer, vice-chair is Kristerer Burnett, other members are Zeke Cohen, Danielle McCray, Leon Pinkett, and Shannon Sneed. Contact information for all of them, as well as a way to look up your district, can be found here.
You can read the full text of the bill here. Click on "19-0409~1st Reader" under "Attachments" near the top.