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Police discipline bill lets city, counties decide civilian role

Rachel Baye

State lawmakers appear to have reached an agreement on a bill changing the controversial Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights. 

The dispute over the measure hinges on whether civilians can vote in police disciplinary proceedings. The Senate wanted to give civilians votes, following criticism that police should be held more accountable to the communities they serve. The House disagreed.

Sen. Bobby Zirkin, a Baltimore County Democrat who chairs the Senate’s Judicial Proceedings committee, said they’ve reached a compromise.

“Every jurisdiction, every municipality, every locality will be able to do what they want to do on that issue," Zirkin said.

In Baltimore, that could mean not giving civilians a vote. Speaking this morning, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake sided with city police commissioner Kevin Davis on the issue.

“Commissioner Davis makes a good point that unless the civilians are adequately trained, it might do more damage than good," she said. "We’re trying to level the playing field not make it uneven or unlevel for the officers that serve us.”

She suggested the city study the issue further, looking at other jurisdictions for models.