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Berwyn Heights Mayor Cheye Calvo Responds to the Passage of SWAT Reporting Legislation in Maryland

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April 8, 2009                                               Cheye Calvo, 301-789-5469

Senate passage of HB 1267 sends measure to Governor O'Malley for his signature

(Berwyn Heights, Maryland – Tuesday, April 8, 2009)  "Last night, the Maryland Senate passed HB 1267, the SWAT Team Activation and Deployment Reporting legislation, by a vote of 46-0.  This same measure was passed 126-13 by the House of Delegates on March 28, 2009.  The measure now goes to Governor Martin O'Malley for his signature.  I am hopeful that Governor O'Malley will sign this bill and make Maryland the first state in the nation to establish a statewide system of oversight and accountability for SWAT team deployments."
"HB 1267 will require law enforcement agencies with SWAT teams to report every six months to civilian authorities and to the public on the number, general location, purpose, authorization, and results of SWAT deployments.  It also directs the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention to analyze the information and issue an annual report on SWAT team deployments in states."
"I want to express my profound appreciation to the Maryland General Assembly for advancing this legislation and, in particular, want to thank the lead sponsors, Senator C. Anthony Muse (Prince George's) and Delegate Kris Valderrama (Prince George's), and the dozens of Senate and House co-sponsors for their leadership on this issue."
"Although the botched raid of my home and killing of our dogs, Payton and Chase, have received considerable attention in the media, it is important to underscore that this bill is about much more than an isolated, high-profile mistake.  It is about a growing and troubling trend where law enforcement agencies are using SWAT teams to perform ordinary police work.  Prince George's County police acknowledges deploying SWAT teams between 400 and 700 a year -- that's twice a day -- and other counties in the state have said that they also deploy their special tactical units hundreds of times a year.  The hearings on these bills have brought to light numerous botched and ill-advised raids in Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Howard, Montgomery, and Prince George's counties that also have had devastating effects on the lives of innocent people and undermined faith in law enforcement.  HB 1267 will shine this light, provide oversight, and demand accountability as a matter of course."
"It is my strong believe that police must their homework and resort to SWAT teams as a last -- rather than initial or de facto -- response.  It is my hope that, by providing oversight and accountability, HB 1267 will encourage law enforcement to exercise better judgment before deploying these paramilitary operations into our communities.  It is also my hope that this bill will provide elected officials the information that they need to establish sound and effective standards for how, when, and why SWAT teams are deployed."
"Although I applaud lawmakers for passing this bill over the objections of law enforcement, I was disappointed that state law enforcement groups decided to oppose this measure rather than embrace it as an opportunity to restore the public trust.  I remain especially concerned with the argument put forward that only law enforcement should police itself and that it is somehow inappropriate for elected leaders to legislate oversight and accountability.  I cannot disagree with this argument more.  As an elected officials, we must take full responsibility for the law enforcement departments that we fund and authorize, and we must hold our law enforcement officials to the highest standards and ideals.  I strongly support law enforcement and believe that so many of our officers are heroes.  However, it is perfectly consistent to support them, provide oversight, and demand accountability -- just as our constituents support, oversee, and demand accountability from us."
"It is my hope that HB 1267 is the first step among many more that will strengthen and rebuild trust in our law enforcement agencies.  I am hopeful that Governor O'Malley will sign this bill soon, and I am committed to work going forward to promote policies that both enhance our public safety and protect our civil liberties."
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