Baltimore City Council members are asking the state of Maryland to give them direct control of Baltimore City Police Department policies.

Councilman Brandon Scott stands with Council Colleagues, Delegate Curt Anderson, No Boundaries Coalition, CASA De Maryland and Community Mediation in support of House Bill 1504 which would make the Baltimore Police Department a city agency. (Courtesy Photo Instagram/Brandon M. Scott)

Despite popular beliefs, the city’s police department has been a state-controlled agency since the late 1800s. Council members have argued in recent years that they lack the control needed to implement reforms within the department.

“When we tried to do the body cameras, they told us we had no authority to tell the police department what to do,” said City Council President Jack Young.

Baltimore’s mayor has the power to hire and fire the police commissioner, city taxpayers fund the department, and the city carries the weight of liability for officer conduct. But ultimate oversight and policy-making powers over the department belong to the Maryland General Assembly.

Brandon Scott, the city’s Public Safety Committee Chairman is spearheading the drive to give the city a greater ability to implement change in the department. A bill currently before state legislators would address the council’s concerns.

“There are several proven instances where we would have already taken action if we had the ability,” said Scott.

However, Mayor Catherine Pugh’s office said Scott and the council have not met with Pugh to discuss the fallout from their desired change.

“Councilman Scott has not spoken to the mayor about any legislation regarding the Baltimore City Police Department or its financial implications for the department or the city,” a spokesperson for Pugh said. “She finds the lack of communications on such important matters to be disrespectful.”

State Delegate Curt Anderson, who represents Baltimore City, is sponsoring a bill in Annapolis to address the city council’s concerns. A hearing is set for next month.

“You’ve been down there, you know what the process is,” said Anderson. “Most bills don’t pass the first year, but we’re certainly going to work on getting this passed this year.”