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In the Media: City Senators Reject Police Discipline Bill; More Officers May Testify in Gray Case

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A digest of Baltimore news from local sources.

From the Baltimore Sun:​ Police discipline bill hits snag as some city senators reject compromise

"A bill that would overhaul Maryland's policing standards and disciplinary procedures hit a serious snag in the Senate Monday night, putting the legislation at risk with less than a week left in the General Assembly session.

"The measure, which would make significant changes to the state's Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights, was sent back to committee after some members of the Baltimore delegation rejected a compromise struck last week over the issue of civilians sitting on police trial boards as voting members.

"The legislation, an outgrowth of the rioting that erupted in Baltimore after the death of Freddie Gray from injuries received in police custody, came to the Senate floor Monday night for preliminary approval and consideration of amendments. But when the bill met resistance after 10 p.m., Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller instructed Sen. Bobby Zirkin, a Baltimore County Democrat who chairs the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, to take it back to the panel to deal with the objections raised by city senators.

"Recommitting a bill to committee is often a way of killing it, but Zirkin said he's not giving up on the legislation.

"Zirkin defended the compromise worked out last week under which Baltimore and other jurisdictions will be permitted to decide for themselves whether to allow civilians to join police as voting members of the trial boards that hear professional discipline cases against law enforcement officers. For police, having civilians sit on trial boards that could determine an officer's professional future is an especially sensitive issue."

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From the Baltimore Sun: Prosecutors in Freddie Gray case move to compel another police officer to testify

"Prosecutors are moving to compel another police officer charged in the death of Freddie Gray to testify against a fellow officer.

"The Baltimore state's attorney's office filed a motion last week, made available Monday, seeking to order Officer Garrett E. Miller to testify at the trial of Officer Edward M. Nero. Both officers were involved in Gray's initial arrest and have pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and two counts of misconduct.

"Nero's trial is scheduled to begin May 10. Miller's trial is scheduled for July.

"The motion comes after months of legal wrangling over prosecutors' efforts to force Officer William G. Porter to testify under limited immunity against five fellow officers with his own charges still pending. Porter appealed, and the state's highest court ruled March 8 that Porter had to testify.

"Prosecutors had not previously said that they planned to call any of the other officers to testify in the cases, but defense attorneys had said forcing Porter to testify would open the door to such a scenario.

"There haven't been any prior cases in Maryland where defendants with pending charges were compelled to testify against their co-defendants. If Baltimore Circuit Judge Barry Williams grants the prosecution's latest motion, Nero's trial would feature both Porter and Miller as witnesses.

"Miller and Nero were on bike patrol last April 12 in Gilmor Homes when they said Gray, 25, ran unprovoked. The officers chased and detained Gray, and arrested him after police said they found a switchblade knife clipped to his belt."

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From the Baltimore Sun: General Assembly approves temporary fix to limit cuts to Baltimore schools

"The General Assembly approved a temporary fix Monday to a problem that has contributed to Baltimore schools losing $50 million in state funding over the past two years.

"On paper, Baltimore's wealth appears to be growing at a rate faster than anywhere else in the state, a circumstance that would normally mean the city could take on a greater share of education costs.

"But that growth has been fueled by tax subsidies, and the huge developments that have benefited from them pay little or nothing into city coffers.

"City lawmakers unsuccessfully tried to tweak state education formulas so that Baltimore wouldn't be penalized by what House Appropriations Chairwoman Maggie McIntosh deemed 'artificial wealth.'

"McIntosh, a city Democrat, said Monday that her original plan to exempt wealth spurred by tax incentives from the funding formula hit resistance because 'it would have wreaked havoc on school budgets across the state, and it wouldn't have helped Baltimore as I thought.'

"A compromise passed by the House last month and approved 45-0 by the Senate on Monday night only applies to subsidies approved after May 1, and the legislation expires in three years.

"The sunset means that the biggest tax-increment financing project in city history — the proposed $535 million deal to redevelop Port Covington — would not be fully built until after a law designed to mitigate its impact on school funding expired. By then, lawmakers expect a state panel evaluating how Maryland pays for schooling will have completed its work and recommended a long-term solution."

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