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Baltimore's lawmakers learn that neither city nor state has power over the police department

Baltimore's lawmakers learn that neither city nor state has power over the police department
Baltimore's lawmakers learn that neither city nor state has power over the police department 03:08

BALTIMORE -- The push for total local control over the Baltimore Police Department is a fight years in the making.

The city reached a key milestone in November when 80% of voters supported Question H on the ballot. Their votes made the Baltimore Police Department a city agency for the first time in more than 150 years. 

Previously, the state had control over the city's police department.

"We want the city council, our local elected officials, to have the power to legislate BPD," Baltimore resident Rob Ferrell said. "Point blank. Period."

But, there are a few more hurdles to jump before that can happen. After all, Question H has its limits.

"It established the Baltimore Police Department as a city agency," Baltimore City Councilman Mark Conway said. "What it did not do is give Baltimore City Council power to write laws that govern the Baltimore City Police Department."

On Tuesday night, city leaders held a public hearing with the city's Local Control Advisory Board, which was formed to help guide the city through the transfer of power.

Members of the board have been conducting research to ensure the transition goes smoothly.   

Dozens of residents attended the public meeting and many of them had the same question: why has power not been officially transferred to the city?

After discussing the advisory board's findings for more than an hour, city leaders discovered yet another hurdle that it needed to jump over: while the city doesn't have the power yet to write laws for BPD, the state ano longer has that power either.

"So, no one can write laws governing the Baltimore City Police Department at the moment," Conway said. "This is something we need to address right now. Today."

Councilman Mark Conway chairs the committee overseeing local control. He said there are solutions to these problems in the works.

Right now, there are two bills in the legislature that would give the city legislative control over the Baltimore Police Department. One would give the city that control by June 1.

In an effort to get that power faster, Councilman Robert Stokes will propose a resolution next week to ask the General Assembly to pass legislation immediately.

Community members are worried about the timeline. They're concerned the official pathway for local control will not be paved before the General Assembly wraps up its session.

"It is very, very frustrating, very frustrating to hear a lot of excuses," Ferrell said. "The people voted in November, 82% of the electorate, for local control of BPD, and all we have from the city is excuses as to why it hasn't been implemented."

Stokes plans to propose his resolution at the city council meeting on Monday.

The General Assembly will review the next batch of legislation in March.

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