My name is Jen Cheslock. I am a constituent in Baltimore City in MD District 41. I am writing in support of HB1027/SB786, Baltimore City – Control of the Police Department of Baltimore City, with amendments to shorten the implementation timeline to 2023 and include more community members on the Advisory Board.
This bill will restore control of the Baltimore Police Department to the City of Baltimore. Every other jurisdiction in Maryland works that way. While the Maryland General Assembly has over time returned a measure of control back to Baltimore, the fact that BPD has remained a state agency for close to 160 years is absurd. Why does the State treat Baltimore differently from any of the other jurisdictions? I would argue that the reasoning for this is antiquated and tone-deaf at best. Here are just a few of the reasons that restoring local control of BPD makes sense:
- I’m a taxpayer and I want to ensure that my local elected city officials are responsive and responsible for oversight of the Baltimore Police Department. As it stands, Baltimore City taxpayers are footing the bill for a state-controlled agency and have been for a long time.
- I want the city officials that Baltimore City voters elected to be able to implement extensive police reforms that we so desperately need. It’s a lot harder to move that work forward if those priorities can only be addressed in a General Assembly session.
- Baltimore knows best what Baltimore needs. Representation is important — and state legislators often have different priorities and different demographics from the folks that live in Baltimore City. Not to mention that those priorities often have to wait for a General Assembly session.
- While I have had limited interactions with police, my black and brown neighbors are over-policed and are statistically more likely to come to harm or die during an interaction with police. Baltimoreans must control our police force to ensure it measures up to our city’s values.
This bill is only one element of the transformative reform we need to see. While it will take years–likely generations–to undo the damage already done, restoring local control helps folks see their local community hold police accountable to our values.
For these reasons, I respectfully urge this committee for a favorable report with amendments on HB1027/SB786.