TOWSON, MD — On Thursday, March 5 at 5:30 p.m., leaders with the Baltimore County Justice Coalition (BCJC) held a press conference to call for reforms of the Baltimore County Police Department (BCPD) following the release of body camera footage of the police killing of Eric Sopp. Among the reforms demanded by the coalition are review of protocol of police interactions involving persons experiencing mental health crises, an independent investigation of the police killing of Eric Sopp by the Maryland State’s Attorney, and independent civilian oversight board with the power to investigate, subpoena, and enforce recommendations to the Baltimore County Police Chief.
The coalition demands a review of BCPD protocol based on the department’s interaction with and killing of Mr. Sopp. Eric’s mother called 911 to report that her son was driving intoxicated and was suicidal. Per the BCPD Field Manual, Eric’s mother’s words in the 911 call indicated Eric was suffering a mental health-related issue. Thus, Officer Page had a duty to request the Mobile Crisis Team respond and de-escalate the situation through verbal and active listening skills. No attempt was made to contact the Mobile Crisis Team, and Officer Page made no attempt to use verbal and active listening skills to interact with Eric Sopp. Instead, Officer Page escalated the situation by approaching Eric Sopp’s vehicle with his gun drawn and raising his voice. Relatedly, the coalition demands increased funding for the Crisis Response Team.
The coalition also demands an independent review of the killing of Eric Sopp by the Maryland States Attorney, Brian Frosh. The District Attorney ruled the shooting “justified.” However, it is clear that Officer Page used excessive force by shooting Eric Sopp eight times simply for exiting his vehicle. There was no indication that Eric Sopp possessed a weapon or posed an immediate potential for death or serious bodily injury to Officer Page. Additionally, Officer Page did not contact the Mobile Crisis Team as indicated in the previous demand.
Importantly, the killing of Eric Sopp is the latest in a series of incidents in which BCPD officers used unwarranted excessive force, resulting in the death or injury of a person. In the last year alone, Baltimore County police killed Emanuel Oates, Robert Uhl Johnson, Jamaal Taylor, and Gamel Antonio Brown. Baltimore County Police officers must be accountable to all persons they serve. Thus, the coalition demands the creation of a civilian oversight board, independent of the police department, to serve as an accountability and transparency measure to the residents of Baltimore County.
The Baltimore County Justice Coalition is a social-political coalition committed to ensuring the Baltimore County Police Department and its officers are accountable and transparent to all residents of Baltimore County. Coalition members include social justice, racial justice, and political organizations in the Baltimore region, specifically ACLU of Maryland, NAACP Baltimore County, Jews United For Justice, Baltimore Transit Equity Coalition, Our Revolution Baltimore, and Showing Up For Racial Justice Baltimore.
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