Should convicted officers lose their pensions? Maryland lawmaker pushes to change state law

“We police have always said that crime should never pay,” he told lawmakers. “Imagine being found guilty of falsifying overtime for thousands of dollars. Should this employee receive benefits if found guilty? Should he be rewarded for lying to the public in court? How can any of us who are sworn to uphold the law not support this legislation? »

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Wandering law enforcement officers risk losing their pensions if convicted of crimes committed on the job.

Sponsored by Senator Jill P. Carter (D-Baltimore City), Senate Bill 47 would subject officers to the forfeiture of all or part of their pension if they are convicted or plead guilty or uncontested of a crime committed in the line of duty.

“Authorizing citizen-funded payments to officers who flagrantly violate the laws they are sworn to uphold, endangering the public in direct conflict with their public appointment to protect and serve cannot continue,” a Carter (D-Baltimore City) said during a Senate Finance Committee Pension Subcommittee hearing Thursday morning.

The bill also contains provisions to ensure the protection of spouses and other dependents. If an officer is ordered to forfeit his pension, a judge can order that some or all of the lost benefits be paid to him.

If the bill passes, the officers would join the governor, lieutenant governor, comptroller, state treasurer, secretary of state, and all members of the General Assembly on the shortlist of public employees. whose contracts include pension forfeiture provisions.

Carter called his bill “part of the ongoing and critical effort for police accountability.”

The General Assembly passed a sweeping package of police reform bills in 2021. Taking an officer’s pension as a punitive measure was originally proposed in an omnibus bill sponsored by House Speaker Adrienne A Jones (D-Baltimore County) in 2021, but has been changed. before the bill hits the governor’s desk.

Carter has introduced the policy before — the last time was in 2014, when she was a member of the House of Delegates. He died after receiving an unfavorable vote from the House Appropriations Committee.

Neill Franklin, a retired Maryland state trooper, testified in support of the bill Thursday on behalf of the Law Enforcement Action Partnership. He said none of his organization’s members had spoken out against the legislation, noting that they had all taken an oath – which he called a “contract” with the public.

If that contract is broken, Franklin said, the pension should disappear.

“We police have always said that crime should never pay,” he told lawmakers. “Imagine being found guilty of falsifying overtime for thousands of dollars. Should this employee receive benefits if found guilty? Should he be rewarded for lying to the public in court? How can any of us who are sworn to uphold the law not support this legislation? »

Baltimore Comptroller Bill Henry (D) also testified in support of Carter’s bill, saying the Board of Estimates has routinely dealt with settlement agreements requiring the city to pay damages due to the behavior of law enforcement officers.

Notably, Henry said that over the past five years, the council issued $14.3 million in settlements related to the Baltimore Police Department’s notorious gun-tracing task force — including eight officers from Baltimore and a Philadelphia officer faced various charges, including racketeering, theft and extortion. related to their drug dealer shakedown.

“We had to compensate citizens for the actions of police officers who were, themselves, later convicted of crimes and fired from the department,” he said. “I’m here because if the city is to be made to pay for its crimes, we should have the power to recover our own damages from officers’ pension benefits.”

“We shouldn’t have to keep paying for the criminal conduct of police officers without any recourse,” Henry added.

Clyde Boatwright, president of the Maryland Fraternal Order of Police, testified against the bill, saying the state had reformed the police enough and that the legislation went too far.

“We spent the whole last year on police reform, we changed the police in the state of Maryland significantly to treat a few people who were criminals acting like they were police officers,” he said. he declares. “They are now in jail in their place. “

“The only question I have to ask is: when does it stop?” He asked.

Boatwright argued that pensions are contracts between state and local law enforcement agencies and the officers they try to attract and retain.

“Once this contract is signed, if we start withdrawing police pensions, what is the next step? Their health care? Boatwright asked.

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