The Baltimore City Council introduced a resolution last night supporting a civilian police review board.
Baltimore Democratic State Sen. Ralph M. Hughes introduced legislation last month that would create an 18-member panel to examine the conduct of police officers. Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, who has opposed previous efforts to create the board, is supporting the legislation that would give the board subpoena power to call witnesses, gather documents and discipline officers.
Southwest Baltimore Councilman Norman A. Handy Sr. introduced the resolution last night. Under the current police review, final decisions about alleged department misconduct rest with Police Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier.
"There is no checks and balances at this point," Handy said. "The review board will give the constituents a sense that they have a place to be heard."
Frazier has repeatedly questioned the effectiveness of civilian review boards, but has remained open to the proposal. His chief objection is giving up authority to punish his officers.
Frazier has revamped the disciplinary process to make it tougher on officers. He has fired about one officer a week since he arrived in 1994, for abuses that range from hitting handcuffed prisoners to domestic violence. A Complaint Review Board made up of prosecutors, city officials and four members of the public reviews police investigations now.
Schmoke has grown increasingly concerned with city police conduct after several recent, high-profile cases of misconduct surfaced. Incidents include the arrest of State Sen. Joan Carter Conway last month, on a charge of hindering a law enforcement officer at a traffic accident. Conway contends that she was manhandled by the officer after being handcuffed. The officer accused Conway of trying to break away.
The council resolution has no binding impact, simply serving as a statement of support. The issue will be studied in a council Judiciary Committee hearing.
In other business, the council voted 10-5 with four members abstaining to allow Phipps Construction Contractors Inc. to install a rock-crushing machine at its property in the 4300 block of Shannon Drive. Neighbors oppose the activity on the 23-acre site, a rubble landfill that has long been a source of controversy.
Southeast Councilwoman Lois Gary added amendments to the bill that will prohibit rock crushing on weekends and truck traffic at night.
Pub Date: 3/16/99