July 29, 2021 15:53

Critics Say Baltimore County Police Reform Falls Short

Last month, after Baltimore County became the first government in the Baltimore region to enact a policing reform law, local resident Chris Brown said Blacks still feel a disconnect from the police force. Brown’s 17-year-old son Christopher died after an off-duty officer chased him and allegedly put him in a chokehold in 2012. Among other changes, Brown thinks officers need to do more community policing — to “get to know the culture in which you serve,” the Baltimore Sun reports. The reform bill of County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. approved by the County Council does not require officers to spend more time walking a beat and meeting with residents. It does compel officers to intervene if they witness excessive use of force. And it is designed to curtail chokeholds, allowing that use of force only in defense against death or serious bodily injury.

“It’s needed in order to restore what we’re losing as far as our community trust,” said Kelly Fenner, the police department’s chief diversity and inclusion officer. Critics say that while the legislation and other recent changes have merit, the county has much more to do. “The proof is in the pudding,” said Tony Fugett of the Baltimore County NAACP. “You’ve checked all the boxes. Now the work has to begin, and are you really in earnest going to do the work?” When he ran for office in 2018, Olszewski promised to improve what he called the “strained relationships” between police and neighborhoods. The Democrat said he would implement diverse hiring goals, encourage officers to live in the communities they patrol, reach out to youths, and allow citizen input in planning. The county is paying $220,000 to Fair and Impartial Policing, a Florida-based company, for training to help officers identify and eliminate bias that can shape enforcement decisions.

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