Baltimore, MD – An anti-police state senator from Baltimore doesn’t think it’s enough punishment for a police officer in Maryland to receive a sentence if they are convicted of a crime – she wants to take away their pensions, too.
Democratic Maryland State Senator Jill Carter proposed a law in early January that would strip convicted law enforcement officers of their state pensions, WTOP reported.
Maryland Senate Bill 47 would require officers to forfeit all or part of their pensions if they are found guilty, plead guilty, or plead “no contest” to a “qualifying crime” they allegedly committed while on duty.
Under SB 47, the list of qualifying crimes included any “felony, perjury, or a misdemeanor related to truthfulness and veracity.”
The proposed law would apply to any officer who is vested in the State Police Retirement System, the Law Enforcement Officers’ Pension System, the Employees’ Pension System, or the Employees’ 10 Retirement System, according to the text of the legislation.
“Allowing citizen-funded payouts to officers who egregiously violate the laws they are sworn to uphold, endangering the public in direct conflict with their public appointment to protect and serve cannot continue,” Carter said during a Senate Finance Committee’s Pensions Subcommittee hearing on Thursday.
If passed, police officers would join a list of public employees whose contracts have forfeiture provisions, including the governor, the lieutenant governor, the comptroller, the state treasurer, the secretary of state, and the entire General Assembly, WTOP reported.
SB 47 contains provisions that would allow a judge to order part or all of the former officer’s pension to be awarded to his spouse or children if the court deems it to be necessary for their survival.
Carter said that SB 47 was just one “part of the ongoing and critical effort for police accountability,” WTOP reported.
It was not the first time that anti-police lawmakers have tried to go after former officer’s pensions.
The same punitive measure was included in an omnibus bill sponsored by Maryland House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones last year, but that section was amended out before it was sent to Maryland Governor Larry Hogan to be signed into law, WTOP reported.
Carter also tried to propose this same legislation in 2014 when she was a state delegate but the House Appropriations Committee killed it.
She was also a vocal proponent of doing away with the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights in the state last year and complained after extreme police reform legislation was passed that it didn’t go far enough, The Washington Post reported.
Baltimore Comptroller Bill Henry testified in favor of SB 47 and told the committee that the city is paying out too much for damages cause by police officers’ actions, WTOP reported.
Henry said the board has paid out $14.3 million in settlements related to the Baltimore Police Department’s notorious Gun Trace Task Force (GTTR) case which saw eight Baltimore officers and one Philadelphia officer charged with crimes that included racketeering, robbery, and extortion.
“We have had to compensate citizens for the actions of police officers who were, themselves, then found guilty of crimes and terminated from the department,” the comptroller explained. “I’m here because if the city is going to be stuck paying for their crimes, we should have the authority to recover our own damages from the officers’ pension benefits.”
“We should not have to continue paying for police officers’ criminal conduct without having any recourse,” he added.
The Maryland Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) testified against the proposed pension grab, WTOP reported.
Maryland FOP President Clyde Boatwright said there had been enough police reform in the state and SB 47 goes too far.
“We spent all of last year on police reform, we’ve significantly changed policing in the state of Maryland to address a few people who were criminals acting as though they were police officers,” Boatwright said. “They are now in jail where they belong.”
“The one question I have to ask is: When does it stop?” the union boss asked.
He said a law like SB 47 would make it even harder for Maryland law enforcement agencies to attract good candidates for the police academy, WTOP reported.
Boatwright argued that pensions are contracts between law enforcement agencies and the officers they want to recruit.
“Once that contract is signed, if we start taking pensions away from police officers what’s next? Their health care?” Boatwright asked.