Food Stamp Suspension for Rioters? Baltimore Legislative Efforts Start

New restrictions on how police officers conduct themselves, welfare penalties for the families of rioters, and meeting violence with violence were all on the table while the people of Baltimore cleared the debris left by April rioting from their streets.

Riots broke out in Baltimore on April 27. More than 230 people have been arrested, at least 144 cars and trucks have been torched, and 15 buildings have burned.

What sparked all of that is still being debated. Most people say it was at least related to the death of a 25-year-old black man while in police custody. Others say teenagers orchestrated a “purge” on social media — a planned day of violence.

What to do next is also still under discussion.

Advice has been heard from a radio station in Baltimore, the Maryland governor’s office and a prosecutor in Detroit.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s office announced the Republican signed nine pieces of legislation April 28 that included several law enforcement reforms.

“These bills directly address public safety and community relations issues, including the day-to-day operations of our law enforcement officials,” said Hogan. “Ensuring the safety of our citizens will always be a priority of our administration, and I am proud to sign these bills into law.”

The reforms include:

SB 321: The Baltimore City and Baltimore County Police Behavioral Health Units Pilot Program, which would require the Baltimore City Police Department and the Baltimore County Police to each establish a behavioral unit of at least six officers who are specially trained to understand the needs of individuals with mental health or substance abuse disorders.

SB 482 / HB 533: The Public Safety Law Enforcement Officers Body-Worn Digital Recording Device and Electronic Control Device, emergency bills that would make it lawful for a law enforcement officer to intercept an oral communication with a “body-worn digital recording device” or an “electronic control device.” These bills would also establish the Commission Regarding the Implementation and Use of Body Cameras by Law Enforcement Officers to study and make recommendations to the Police Training Commission and the General Assembly.

SB 882: Baltimore City Civilian Review Board, which would alter the definition of “law enforcement unit” as it relates to the Baltimore City Civilian Review Board so as to increase the number of law enforcement units that are subject to review by the Board.

HB 954: Public Safety Deaths Involving a Law Enforcement Officer Reports, which would require law enforcement agencies to provide the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention with information about deaths of individuals in police custody, as well as deaths of officers occurring in the line of duty.

SB 413: Vehicle Laws Race-Based Traffic Stops Policy and Reporting Requirements, which would require law enforcement officers to record demographic information, including race, pertaining to traffic stops.

HB 771: Baltimore Police Department Reporting on Community Policing, which would require that a report be submitted annually to the Baltimore City legislative delegation, Baltimore City Mayor, and City Council with information on the diversity of the police force, as well as encounters with officers, including those resulting in civilian injuries, and number of officers suspended.

A Republican member of the Maryland House of Delegates has brought up his own reform ideas that include penalties for the families of teenagers who were arrested in the riots. Delegate Patrick McDonough wants to take food stamps away from the parents of teenagers who were arrested during the riots.

He also called for a “scientific study” of the “thug community” of Baltimore.