Maryland lawmakers appear likely to let city voters decide whether to put the Baltimore Police Department entirely back under the mayor and City Council, reports the Baltimore Sun. Under twin bills introduced by Sen. Cory V. McCray and Del. Melissa R. Wells, both Baltimore Democrats, and pushed by Democratic Mayor Brandon Scott, a city charter amendment would go before Baltimore voters as soon as 2022. The legislation would also create an advisory committee to draft language for that proposed charter amendment. Baltimore is the only jurisdiction in Maryland where the local police department is technically a state agency. Scott’s support put City Hall firmly behind the measure. He has characterized local control as a crucial step toward reforming the department. The city handles the department’s budget, and the mayor holds the power to hire and fire the police commissioner.
The lone dissenting voice so far has been the Baltimore City Lodge #3 Fraternal Order of Police union, which has repeatedly noted that local officials already have significant control over the agency through the commissioner — who the mayor can fire for any reason — and pointed to the warnings about a potential increase to the city’s liability costs. Another concern among rank-and-file officers is whether labor protections enshrined in state law — including collective bargaining rights for city police, arbitration rules for pay disputes and other provisions — would carry over into local control. See also: “Maryland Democrats Divided on Police Reform.”