City/county Digest

CITY/COUNTY DIGEST

July 21, 2006

Civil rights suit to bar city hearing on arrests

Baltimore City Councilman James B. Kraft said yesterday that a civil rights lawsuit filed against the city for its arrest policies will prevent him from convening a hearing on the issue.

Kraft, chairman of the council's public safety subcommittee, based his assessment on a legal opinion issued this week by a top city lawyer, who advised against holding the hearing because testimony from police officials "would risk severe prejudice" to the city and other defendants.

Last month, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the American Civil Liberties Union sued the Police Department, the mayor, the council, state prison officials and individual police and correctional officers. The civil rights groups are alleging a broad pattern of abuse in which they say thousands of people are routinely arrested and held for hours without being charged with a crime.

"They want us to address [the issue], but because they sued us we're not able to address it," Kraft said. "We have to have the Police Department testify, but if they're going to be instructed not to answer, then what's the sense of having a hearing?"

Chief Solicitor Linda C. Barclay also advised against Kraft's idea of holding a private meeting aimed at protecting officers who might be interested in testifying about arrest quotas that commanders say do not exist. She said such a hearing would violate state open-meetings laws.

Councilman Kenneth N. Harris Sr., who called for a hearing on quotas last month, said the legal opinion was based on the solicitor's job of representing the best interests of city government.

"I want to make sure we're doing what's in the best interest of the citizens," Harris said. "I think it's irresponsible for the council to take no action on this issue, regardless of what the city solicitor says."

Solicitor Ralph S. Tyler said his office thinks the lawsuit is "without merit" and that he intends to prove that in court.

Doug Donovan

Baltimore: Spills

Public warned on sewer overflows

Baltimore public works officials warned people yesterday to avoid contact with standing water in the area of two sanitary sewer overflows in northeastern and northwestern parts of the city. Officials said one overflow was discovered at 10 a.m. Wednesday in the 4800 block of Seton Drive. It was contained about four hours later, with a spillage estimated at 24,000 gallons. The other was found at 8 a.m. Wednesday in the 5200 block of Goodnow Road. It was contained at 2 p.m. yesterday after spillage of about 36,000 gallons of sewage. Warning signs were posted. Information: 410-396-4422.

Education

Volunteers sought for 9th-grade project

The Maryland Business Roundtable for Education is seeking volunteers from Baltimore's business community to speak to city ninth-graders about their work experiences and show students the connection between what they are learning in school and life in the real world. The organization estimated it will need 250 volunteers to speak to nearly 9,400 ninth-graders in Baltimore this fall. Information: 410-727-0448.

Sara Neufeld

Anne Arundel: Bay Bridge

Body of man, 44, is recovered

The body of a 44-year-old man who apparently jumped Tuesday from the main span of the Bay Bridge was recovered yesterday afternoon about two miles to the south, Maryland Transportation Authority police reported. The man's name was withheld pending notification of family members, said Cpl. Pamela Thorne, a police spokeswoman. Thorne said a boater found the body about 3:10 p.m. and called the Anne Arundel County Fire Department. The body had been sought since Tuesday afternoon, when a 2002 Audi registered to the man was found abandoned on the westbound span.

Richard Irwin

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