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Council President Scott and Councilwoman Sneed to Introduce Transparency and Oversight Ordinance Making Gag Orders for Police Misconduct Illegal

Council President Scott and Councilwoman Sneed to Introduce Transparency and Oversight Ordinance Making Gag Orders for Police Misconduct Illegal

Bill Seeks to Codify Court Decision Finding Non-Disclosure Agreements Unconstitutional

BALTIMORE, MD (July 18, 2019) — Following the decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in the Overbey v. Mayor of Baltimore case, Council President Brandon M. Scott and Councilwoman Shannon Sneed (District 13) will introduce an ordinance on Monday, July 22 at 5:00pm making the use of non-disclosure agreements, or "gag orders," illegal for settlement agreements in police misconduct and unlawful discrimination claims levied against the City of Baltimore. 

A press conference with lead sponsor Councilwoman Sneed, Council President Scott, and advocates will be held on Monday, July 22 at 4:15pm outside of the Council Chambers prior to the Baltimore City Council meeting.

Last week, the Court of Appeals found the Baltimore Police Department's practice requiring victims of police brutality and misconduct to sign non-disclosure agreements to be unconstitutional. 

"I commend the Court of Appeals decision in the Overbey case. While the Baltimore Police Department is making steady progress at reforming itself into a force Baltimoreans can be proud of, the City and BPD take responsibility for past actions and allow for honest dialogue," said Council President Scott. "Victims of police brutality have a constitutionally protected right to speak about their experiences. We have an obligation to own our mistakes and be accountable to Baltimore's residents. Transparency at all levels is critical to that mission."

At the Council meeting on July 22, Council President Scott and Councilwoman Sneed will introduce an ordinance entitled "Transparency and Oversight in Claims and Litigation." The bill would prohibit the use of non-disclosure provisions in settlement agreements for police misconduct and unlawful discrimination claims filed against Baltimore City. It would also require the City's Law Department to publish information about claims filed.

"For years, survivors of police misconduct have been required to not speak as a condition of their settlements," said Councilwoman Sneed, who is the lead sponsor of the bill. "This decision opens the door for people to overtly speak their truth and begin to heal from past trauma. I have always been an advocate for transparency, fairness, and integrity between city government and the citizens it serves; this is a step in the right direction."

"It would kill me not to speak about what happened to my brother. Tyrone’s killing changed our whole family’s life forever, in a blink of an eye. It devastated us,” said Tawanda Jones, whose brother Tyrone West was killed by Baltimore and Morgan State Police six years ago today. “Maybe by passing this bill we can change people’s lives in a positive way, so at least they won’t be forced into silence anymore.” 

The family of Tyrone West was presented with a non-disclosure agreement as part of the settlement of their civil case. Jones refused to sign the gag order. 

The ordinance has been in the works since the fall and is the result of collaboration with advocates, such as the ACLU of Maryland which served as lead counsel in the Overbey case.

You can find a draft version of the "Transparency and Oversight in Claims and Litigation" legislation, which will be introduced at 5:00pm at the July 22 City Council meeting, here

 

 

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