County Executive Kevin Kamenetz with Julian Jones at inauguration on Dec 1.
On Monday December 1st, elected officials of Baltimore County government were sworn in for the second time under County Executive Kevin Kamenetz’s administration.
Most noteworthy among those individuals taking the oath of office at what was a brief, but officious, inaugural ceremony held at the new Towson University SECU Arena was Julian Jones. He is only the second African American councilmember in Baltimore County history.
Baltimore City Mayor Stephanie Rawlins-Blake, four former County executives including Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger, several state delegates and senators, members of the Executive cabinet and about three hundred members of the general public were on hand for the event, which was opened by the Milford Mill High School Marine JROTC.
Stan Stovall, anchorman for WBAL TV, served as master of ceremony for the inauguration which lasted two hours and was followed by a reception.
The ceremony also included a video celebration of Baltimore County government’s accomplishments, efficiency and progressiveness.
County Executive Kamenetz chose to center much of his inaugural address on inclusiveness and diversity in his administration, including the police and fire departments, an obvious contrast of Baltimore County’s reality to places like Ferguson.
Outside the calm of the Towson University based Inauguration festivities, however, at noon arrangements were well underway on the other side of campus for a largely Towson University student organized march protesting events in Ferguson, Missouri.
Just after noon about 200 black and white students and other members of the public carrying signs, left their classes and work to march peacefully from the Towson University campus about a mile to the Baltimore County government office complex, shouting “No justice, no peace!” as part of Justice for Michael Brown Day protests occurring nationally.
Towson University students marched peacefully to Towson Old Courthouse to protest Michael Brown killing shouting “No justice, no peace!”
Gathering in the courtyard outside the Old Courthouse building, the group stopped to highlight that even in a county with the standard of living and effective government of Baltimore County, the devaluation and loss of young black youth’s lives at the hands of some police officers is still a reality.
Referencing the death of youth like 17-year-old Christopher Brown of Randallstown in June 2012 at the hands of an off-duty Baltimore County police officer, James LaBoard, who was acquitted and received back pay after his pursuit and strangulation of Brown by using a controversial choke hold, the group wants reforms made locally.
Chris Brown’s death never received the attention of others.
Ironically the precipitating event had been other neighborhood youth, not Christopher Brown, pounding or throwing a rock at LaBoard’s front-door in a childish game called “knicker-knocking.”
Even though off-duty, Officer LaBoard was allowed to treat Brown as a fleeing criminal when he scattered like all the other boys when confronted by an angry neighbor.
Unlike the slaying of Michael Brown and Travon Martin, however, there were no major marches or visceral reaction in the community to protest the death of Christopher Brown, a church usher and a member of Randallstown High Schools Naval JROTC.
However, like the situation in Ferguson the assistant state’s attorney after investigating the matter failed to make a strong case on behalf of the victim.
Some courtroom witnesses felt several ambiguous statements helped justify the slaying of the 6’1” football teen by a smaller police officer, who after pursuing a teenager slowed by a visible knee brace for blocks, argued he too feared for this life.
Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz released a statement at the time of the Chris Brown killing in 2012, saying, “Regardless of the facts, the Brown family has lost a son, and our thoughts and prayers are with them during this difficult time. I have spoken with Police Chief Jim Johnson and with State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger, and they have assured me that Wednesday’s events will be thoroughly investigated in a fair and impartial manner. I am confident that all of the facts will be evaluated objectively and that both the Police Chief and State’s Attorney will follow those facts to their logical conclusion as they would in any case of this nature.”
What did occur in the aftermath of the jury trial clearing LaBoard of use of the controversial chokehold was passage in 2014 of Christopher’s Law, sponsored by Delegate Jill P. Carter. The law requires additional training for police officer about appropriate use of force, mandatory CPR training and cultural and gender training.
In contrast to the start of his first term, Mr. Kamenetz announced no major shake-ups in his administration during his second term.
His speech made no reference to the need or plans for additional police training, accountability or use of new equipment in light of Ferguson, or police reforms now being recommended by President Obama.
Community members hope, however, that this does not signal that the administration assumes all is well, or becomes complacent to the genuine concerns of many black and white citizens that black, male teen lives and freedom may not be as valued as their white counterparts.
Many in the African American community are counting on newly elected Councilman Julian Jones to keep his pledge to be more of an activist than his predecessor in demanding investigation of citizen complaints.