Police policy criticized

Council members fault change

January 08, 2009|By Justin Fenton | Justin Fenton,justin.fenton@baltsun.com

The Baltimore City Council president and the chair of the council's public safety committee say that a new police policy to withhold the names of officers who shoot or kill citizens "could undermine the hard-earned, sacred trust between our police officers and the public they serve."

In a letter sent yesterday to Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III, Council President Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake and Councilman Bernard C. "Jack" Young said they were troubled that they were not informed of the "major policy shift" and asked for clarification on the reason for the change and how it will be implemented.

"The new policy change presents a difficult challenge at a time when our rank and file police officers are working so diligently to build trust with the citizens of Baltimore," they wrote. "Are you absolutely certain that this is the best way to protect the safety of our dedicated police officers while maintaining an appropriate level of public transparency?"

Bealefeld has declined to comment on the change, saying only that he supports the decision of his new director of public affairs, Anthony Guglielmi. Rawlings-Blake and Young said it was inappropriate for Bealefeld to delegate such a decision.

Guglielmi initially said that the names of officers would be withheld unless they were found to have erred through an internal investigation. He said easy access to personal information on the Internet puts officers at greater risk for retaliation and that several other big cities have similar policies.

Yesterday, Guglielmi said the department would also name officers who were cleared in internal investigations on a "case by case" basis.

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