BALTIMORE (WJZ)—There is new pushback on the growing effort to get all city police officers to wear body cameras. The City Council is considering a bill to force all officers to wear them, but there’s disagreement over that plan.
Rochelle Ritchie has more on the arguments on both sides.
The new debate is over the city’s charter. The mayor says councilmembers do not have the authority to interfere with the police commissioner’s powers when it comes to his department. But the council president says this debate is nothing but “political BS.”
It’s a war of wars in Baltimore City as councilmembers get closer to passing legislation that would require nearly 3,000 city cops to wear body cameras.
“This is a win-win for the police department,” said Bernard C. “Jack” Young, council president. “It will keep everybody in check because everything has to be recorded.”
Police commissioner Anthony Batts has already made it clear he wants body cameras on all of his officers sooner than later.
“We know that they are lingering issues of trust and doubt that damage our relationship with our community,” Batts said.
While Young, Batts and other members of the council are ready to move forward, the Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake says not so fast. She says councilmembers are abusing their authority.
“It’s not the body cameras that’s the issue. It’s the core nature of the legislation,” Rawlings-Blake said.
According to the mayor and the city solicitor, councilmembers do not have the power to hinder the police commissioner’s authority, so if this legislation were passed it would be an illegal move by the city.
“There’s a right way and a wrong way to go about it. They’ve chosen a way that is not in accordance with the charter,” the mayor said.
Is this an illegal move being taken by the City Council?
“Absolutely not,” Young said. “I can go back and talk about when we amended the curfew law. That’s a police statue and ordinance. We did that. We did several things with the police department. It’s all in interpretation. It’s all political BS.”
Young authored the legislation for body cameras in September after video of alleged police brutality played out in the media.
A scathing report by the Baltimore Sun revealed millions of taxpayer dollars were paid out to victims of cops behaving badly.
Young says an argument over the words in the charter is a result of others in the city wanting to be the hero.
“I don’t care who gets the credit. They can have the credit. Let’s protect the police and the citizens of Baltimore. That’s all I want,” Young said.
Young has sent a letter to Attorney General Doug Gansler to ensure the council is not violating the city’s charter.
The police commissioner has used body cameras before in previous jurisdictions.
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