Loitering amendment considered

Sponsor considers stricter limits on police actions

`Pretty reasonable'

Opponents still want McMillan to withdraw bill from city council

June 23, 1999|By Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan | Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan,SUN STAFF

Annapolis Alderman Herbert H. McMillan is considering amending his controversial anti-loitering bill so that police could only ask drug offenders with at least two previous convictions to move along.

McMillan, a Ward 5 Republican, said he started contemplating the amendment after a public hearing Monday night, where some people protested against the portion of his proposal that allows police to ask anyone convicted of drug possession, use or distribution to move along.

Opponents argued that the bill would unfairly target those convicted long ago who had cleaned up their act afterward.

Increasing the requirement to at least two or three drug convictions before police can ask loiterers to move along "is pretty reasonable," McMillan said yesterday.

"If you've been convicted three times, you're a habitual criminal," he said.

McMillan's bill has riled several Annapolis black community leaders, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the American Civil Liberties Union, who say it gives police carte blanche to harass blacks who stand on a street corner.

McMillan introduced the bill last month to redefine public space to include private property accessible to the general public, such as sidewalks of public housing communities, which are property of the Annapolis Housing Authority.

Sever al Neighborhood Watch leaders urged the city council Monday night to approve the bill because police now cannot ask suspected drug dealers loitering on public housing sidewalks -- which are private property -- to move along.

The ACLU and NAACP have called on McMillan to withdraw his bill, saying it is unconstitutional and noting the Supreme Court's recent decision that strikes down a Chicago anti-loitering bill targeting gang members.

Ruby Blakeney, a Ward 5 resident who has led local opposition to the bill, said she still wants McMillan to withdraw it.

"We don't need a bill passed to get anybody arrested for drug activity," Blakeney said. "We need to enforce what we already have in place. [McMillan] needs to listen to the majority of people who are speaking. If they don't want something, he shouldn't try to shove it down."

McMillan said he also is considering altering his bill to target drug buyers as well as users and wants to meet with Gerald Stansbury, president of the Anne Arundel County NAACP branch, to discuss his proposal.

The city council's public safety committee will discuss the bill July 2 with police.

Stansbury could not be reached for comment.

"The bill will not be withdrawn," McMillan said. "I believe the bill will pass. I did this because I believe it's an important tool that we need in the city of Annapolis. I think that most people in Annapolis favor it. At the meeting, we heard views from both sides of the aisle, and many of those views I'm going to take into consideration as we work on amendments."

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