Search Results for ‘maryland correctional’

Great moments in public employment: correctional officers’ rights

“Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan blamed the state’s largest employee’s union for not being able to remove corrections employees who face charges that range from driving under the influence to assault….Since 2013, more than 200 Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services employees have been charged with crimes that include DUI, assault and having sexual relations with an inmate, yet they remain on the job.” Union officials, however, say the governor is in error, and that it’s state law, rather than AFSCME contract terms, that restrict dismissals. So no problem! [WBAL, auto-plays; earlier on Maryland’s Correctional Officers Bill of Rights law, a younger sibling to its Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights (LEOBR) law for police]

More background on police bill of rights laws, and their origin in the wake of the Kerner commission report on 1960s civil unrest [Scott Greenfield] Veteran police lawyer Herbert Weiner, general counsel to Maryland State FOP Lodge, defends the state’s LEOBR [Al-Jazeera] And commenter Daniel Martin at Popehat on some curious implications of Maryland’s LEOBR, which prohibits investigating cops for some types of misconduct “until the victim, their immediate family, or a direct witness swears out a complaint.”

Yet more: In Pennsylvania, “members of the Fraternal Order of Police are rallying behind legislation to shield the identities of officers who use force.” It’s backed in Harrisburg by Rep. Martina White (R-Philadelphia) and Sen. John Sabatina, D-Philadelphia. [Watchdog] And with respect to our post of the other day, a commenter writes that the city of Tucson’s two-tiered informational release — withholding the names of police in a prostitution investigation while releasing those of civilians — was not done at city authorities’ discretion but in compliance with a newspaper’s public records request, in conjunction with a state law shielding police privacy.

Rikers Island and the correctional officers’ union

It isn’t just in California (here, here, here, here, here, here) that the political power of guard unions makes prisons hard to reform. In December the New York Times investigated the head of the guards’ union in New York City, Norman Seabrook, seen as “the biggest obstacle to efforts to curb brutality and malfeasance” at the city’s notorious Rikers Island, and noted that most elected officials are reluctant to be quoted discussing him by name, sometimes due to “fears about their safety while visiting Rikers” if they get on his wrong side. Seabrook has derailed investigators, reformers, and oversight officials for years:

Perhaps the most naked display of Mr. Seabrook’s power came on Nov. 18, 2013, when a Rikers inmate, Dapree Peterson, was scheduled to testify against two correction officers in a brutality case. Mr. Seabrook essentially shut down the city’s courts by sidelining the buses that ferry inmates to and from court, interviews and documents show. As a result, hundreds of inmates missed court dates, including Mr. Peterson, whose beating had been investigated and referred for prosecution by [deputy commissioner for investigation Florence] Finkle.

The blockage also caused 49 inmates to miss scheduled medical appointments at Bellevue Hospital Center.

Full story here. More: John McGinnis (despite personal tone of Times’s criticism of Seabrook, his actions respond to the predictable incentives of a union leader), Daniel DiSalvo, Washington Examiner (unions can win popularity by preventing discipline of misbehaving workers), Ed Krayewski, Kevin Williamson. See also our coverage of correctional officers “bill of rights” laws in Maryland, Pennsylvania, etc. here, here, here, and here.

Maryland roundup

  • Correctional Officers Bill of Rights (COBR) of 2011, developing out of AFSCME efforts to defend prison guards in western Maryland, and role it played in Baltimore jail scandal. Vital reading [Charles Lane, City Journal, Sasha Volokh; earlier; related Kevin Williamson on incident at NYC’s Riker’s Island in which mentally ill inmate was permitted to roast to death, responsible officer drawing 30-day suspension]
  • Narrowly defeated effort to enact state False Claims Act becomes issue in Senate GOP primary [Frederick News-Post, earlier here, here]
  • Citing federal guidelines, Howard County schools restrict special-event food [Ellicott City Patch]
  • Judge rebuffs lawsuit by Montgomery County police union seeking to invalidate legislative measures inconsistent with its contract [WaPo] County council race “a ‘battle royale’ between the government employee and school system unions” [Seventh State]
  • “Maryland Puts Up Roadblocks to Online Ed” which just happens to protect the state’s UMUC (University of Maryland University College) [The American Interest, Arnold Kling]
  • Will Montgomery County finally get out of the liquor distribution business? [Bethesda magazine]
  • And speaking of MoCo monopolies, its taxi near-cartel needs to go: “Uber provides a better service even without the regulation” [David Lublin, The Seventh State]

Pennsylvania moves to adopt a “Correctional Officers’ Bill of Rights”

One would think the whole concept of the union-backed “correctional officers’ bill of rights” might have been thrown into disrepute by last year’s Maryland scandal, in which the statute was found to have entrenched problem guards even as the Baltimore jail descended into a scandalous state of gang-run corruption. But apparently not: the Pennsylvania House has unanimously (!) voted in favor of having that state adopt its own such “bill of rights,” weakening administrators’ power to investigate possible officer misconduct. Details of H.B. 976 here.

Maryland roundup

  • Error-plagued speed camera program even more error-plagued than had been realized [Fox Baltimore]
  • Del. Joseph Vallario, Jr. [D-Prince George’s] chairs House Judiciary panel while practicing criminal defense law, but as conflicts of interest go we’ve heard worse [Washington Post]
  • Theme of recent dramshop, contributory-negligence rulings by Maryland Court of Appeals is restraint [Michael Schearer, more; my WaPo letter on the alcohol-serving case; for a view different from mine, Donald Gifford]
  • Pleading guilty in massive Baltimore jail scandal, Tavon White says “many other” guards involved in misconduct, 13 have been indicted [City Paper, Baltimore Sun/CorrectionsOne, AP/HuffPo]
  • One view from the other side on unpopular “rain tax” on impervious surfaces [Tom Coale, HoCo Rising]
  • “Alas, The Maryland Court of Appeals Has Reversed Ford v. Dixon” [on “every fiber, every breath” asbestos theory; David Oliver]
  • What is it with Maryland and surveillance, anyway? State police zealously collect license plate-cam data [J.D. Tuccille]

Maryland roundup

  • After Gov. Martin O’Malley signs one of nation’s most restrictive gun laws, Beretta says it intends to move out of state [Guns.com]
  • Unfortunately, high cigarette taxes promote this sort of thing: “Ocean City cigarette smuggling ring had ties to terror groups, police say” [Baltimore Sun, Tax Foundation]
  • Responding to critics (such as), legislature caps the vessel excise tax in hopes of reviving ailing boating industry [Annapolis Gazette]
  • New law backed by O’Malley will require educators to pay dues to teachers’ union whether members or not [Trey Kovacs, Open Market and Workplace Choice; Harford County Dagger]
  • State has among nation’s highest per capita medical malpractice outlays, behind only five Northeastern states (NY, PA, NJ, MA, CT) and D.C. [Diederich analysis of annual payouts via TortsProf]
  • Chronicle of Rogues: Maryland gets a D minus, ranking a dismal 40th among the 50 states, on corruption-rating State Integrity Report Card [Center for Public Integrity via Tom Coale]
  • It’ll be held in D.C. this year rather than Annapolis, but that’s no reason you shouldn’t join us for the acclaimed Cato University [Jul. 28-Aug. 2]
  • Politicos scramble to defend “correctional officers’ bill of rights” after FBI affidavit blasts measure for helping entrench corruption at Baltimore jail [AP, earlier]

Correctional officers’ “bill of rights” and the Baltimore jail scandal

Last month 13 guards and 12 others were indicted on charges of letting a gang effectively take over management of the Baltimore City Detention Center; according to the indictment, corrupt guards allegedly smuggled in drugs, cellphones and other contraband and had sex with the gang leader, several becoming pregnant by him. Since then the public and press has been asking what went wrong. A Washington Post editorial suggests one place they might look:

The absurd situation described in the indictment took root at least partly because of a “bill of rights” for corrections officers, backed by Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) and enacted by the Maryland legislature in 2010 at the behest of the guards union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. This bill of rights grants extraordinary protections to guards, including shielding them from threats of prosecution, transfer, dismissal or even disciplinary action during questioning for suspected wrongdoing.

While Gov. O’Malley has sought to minimize the relevance of the 2010 law, the Post notes that FBI recordings suggest that a guard who was deemed “dirty” was transferred to another facility, rather than fired — transfers-instead-of-firing being a less than optimal way of dealing with public employee corruption, but one typical of systems with strong tenure entrenchment. AFSCME, which boasted at the time of its “relentless lobbying” on behalf of the law, is now doing damage control. More: “those protections left officers at the jail without fear of sanctions for allegedly smuggling contraband or having relationships with inmates, the FBI said in an affidavit.” [Baltimore Sun] Union-allied lawmakers defend the measure [AP]

Law Enforcement Officer Bill of Rights laws: time for reform

“I don’t understand how she [Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake] can continually say they’re not cooperating,” Michael E. Davey, an attorney for the police union, told The Baltimore Sun on Wednesday. “They are. They did. And they’re lucky they got those statements before I got involved.”

They’re lucky they got those statements before I got involved. That’s a little window into the adversarial relationship between the union representing six Baltimore officers under investigation and city officials charged with determining whether Freddie Gray’s fatal injuries in police custody might have been caused by foul play such as an unbelted “rough ride” in the back of a police van.

Newsweek, and before that the Foundation for Economic Education, have now reprinted a short Cato at Liberty piece in which I describe the operation of Law Enforcement Officer Bill of Rights (LEOBR or LEOBoR) laws, of which Maryland passed the first in the early 1970s, and which have spread to more than a dozen states; in many other localities union contract provisions accomplish some of the same goals. These laws sharply restrain how police forces can pursue misconduct investigations against suspected officers, and officials in Baltimore and elsewhere have repeatedly cited the law as an impediment to investigations of officer misconduct long predating the Freddie Gray incident, including the probe into the enormous scandal of employee misconduct at the state-run Baltimore jail. (I’ve got more at Free State Notes about the local Maryland angle, including the failure of efforts this year in the state legislature to reform the law.)

Radley Balko followed up with a post summarizing my argument and adding an important point, which is that these laws can provide a covert way for departments to sabotage investigations so as to help out fellow officers, by introducing seemingly inadvertent errors that ensure that charges will later have to be thrown out.

In my opinion, conservatives should no more defend LEOBRs than they should defend teacher tenure laws, and for much the same reasons. In response to rising criticism, which has intensified since Gray’s death in custody, police unions have begun a broad effort to shore up support for the laws. The version of my article at FEE, for example, drew a response from a Montgomery County Fraternal Order of Police official which you can read here together with my response.

One oft-heard claim that these laws merely give suspected cops the same rights as other suspected citizens. Don’t miss Ken White’s new post at Popehat blowing that argument to smithereens. Equally laughable is the suggestion from union brass that the laws merely put into effect Fifth Amendment or other constitutional rights. While a few cases from the Warren Court era did invent new constitutional constraints on public agencies’ handling of employee investigations, LEOBR laws go far beyond anything in those cases.

Further reading and listening: Ed Krayewski, Reason; Kojo Nnamdi show; New York Times “Room for Debate” roundtable with Prof. Paul Butler, my friend and former Manhattan Institute colleague Heather Mac Donald (the middle-of-the-roader, in this context) and FOP’s Chuck Canterbury. See also my coverage of correctional officers “bill of rights” laws in Maryland, Pennsylvania, etc. here, here, here, and here.