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Hogan Pledges To Sign Police Body Camera Bill

Christopher Connelly/WYPR

Governor Larry Hogan will sign legislation to make it legal for jurisdictions to put body cameras on police officers. The governor told reporters Thursday that it is a “small step” toward dealing with “a major problem” of people dying in police custody.

“Having the real evidence of exactly what happened, having everything videotaped is a step in the right direction, something we are going to support,” he said.

Hogan called the death of a Freddie Gray on Sunday from injuries sustained while in police custody “a tragedy.” An ACLU report found 109 people died in police custody over the past four years in Maryland. Hogan said requiring police officers to wear body cameras would help answer questions after incidents of alleged police brutality.

As demonstrators continue to demand answers about how Gray sustained a fatal spinal cord injury after he was arrested by Baltimore police officers, Hogan also ordered state troopers to help manage protests in the wake of Gray’s death, and thanked demonstrators for remaining nonviolent. He said he was in contact with Baltimore officials and willing to offer any assistance they need.

Hogan was speaking at an event for reporters put on by the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association and billed as a discussion of his first 100 days in office. He was interviewed on stage by WYPR’s Sheilah Kast, and then took questions from journalists, about a wide range of topics including the budget stalemate, several pieces of legislation he’ll be expected to either sign or veto in the coming weeks, and his priorities moving forward.

He also pledged to sign a bill that sets up a commission to look at how many standardized tests Maryland students are required to take. Hogan said he was still weighing whether to sign a bill that would make it easier for ex-felons to register to vote after they've been released from prison. 

When it comes to his transportation agenda, Hogan also sent a chilly, though not definitive, message about the future of two proposed light rail projects, the Purple Line in Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties and the Red Line in Baltimore.

From day one, Hogan has appeared skeptical of the multi-billion dollar price tags on the two projects. And on Thursday, he made it clear mass transit is not at the top of his transit wish list. “Our priority is building and fixing and maintaining roads and bridges,” he said.

A little later, Hogan said he needs to see costs come down before he’s willing to sign off on more mass transit. He said he did not doubt the merits of the light rail projects, but that he wasn’t sure the state could afford them. Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn will brief the governor on the light rail projects next month, including potential cost savings. But if there is a benchmark the governor will be looking for, he wasn’t telling.

“I don’t have a particular number,” he said. 

Christopher Connelly is a political reporter for WYPR, covering the day-to-day movement and machinations in Annapolis. He comes to WYPR from NPR, where he was a Joan B. Kroc Fellow, produced for weekend All Things Considered and worked as a rundown editor for All Things Considered. Chris has a master’s degree in journalism from UC Berkeley. He’s reported for KALW (San Francisco), KUSP (Santa Cruz, Calif.) and KJZZ (Phoenix), and worked at StoryCorps in Brooklyn, N.Y. He’s filed stories on a range of topics, from a shortage of dog blood in canine blood banks to heroin addicts in Tanzania. He got his start in public radio at WYSO in Yellow Springs, Ohio, when he was a student at Antioch College.