The Baltimore Maryland city council’s public safety committee passed a bill last week that would require all police officers to wear body cameras while on duty. The bill will be voted on by the entire city council on November 10, but Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has preemptively promised to veto the bill if it reaches her desk.
This video surfaced in early September of this year, prompting Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young and Councilman Warren Branch to quickly file this bill from what Torchin told me about the situation. The video clearly shows one police officer attacking an intoxicated man trying to seek safe transportation at a bus stop. A second officer assists the first officer’s assault by holding back the man’s right arm.
Unfortunately this incident is far from the first documented case of excessive police brutality in Baltimore. An investigation conducted by the Baltimore Sun found that since 2011, almost $6 million in judgments for over 100 civil suits were awarded over allegations of police misconduct. Nearly all civilians involved in these settlements were cleared of any criminal charges.
Mayor Rawlings-Blake argues that passing such an ordinance would cause the city council to be in violation of the city’s charter, which limits interference in police commissioner’s power. However, while Article II Section 27 of the Charter of Baltimore City does support the mayor’s claim, it also provides a contingency that under Article IV, “the mayor, by virtue of office,” is granted the power to conserve the peace and provide “general supervision of all municipal officers and agencies.” With the recent violent protests in Ferguson, MO and other cities across the country, body cameras could easily be considered a measure to preserve the peace.
Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts, along with the mayor, have organized a task force to complete a review of the police internal affairs within three months, but have announced no deadline to add devices to police uniform. The attorney general’s office is currently examining the legality of city council’s proposed bill, which sets the deadline for all officers to be outfitted with cameras within a year.