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Two Washington County legislators back colleague's SWAT bill

Measure would extend law that requires law enforcement agencies to report activities of their SWAT teams

March 20, 2013|By KAUSTUV BASU | kaustuv.basu@herald-mail.com

ANNAPOLIS — An operation by Maryland State Police near Sharpsburg last year prompted two Washington County legislators to introduce a bill during the current session of the Maryland General Assembly requiring the chief of the primary law enforcement agency in a county to be notified before an officer from another agency serves a warrant in areas within a county’s jurisdiction.

That bill died in committee, but the two legislators behind that bill — Del. Neil C. Parrott, R-Washington, and Sen. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington — are supporting another bill with amendments they say would achieve some of the same objectives.

The bill they are supporting was introduced by Sen. Jennie M. Forehand, D-Montgomery, to extend a law that requires law enforcement agencies to send reports about the activities of their SWAT teams to the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention.

Three amendments to the bill require the agencies to specify the number of SWAT team members that were used during an operation, describe any “non-standard” equipment such as helicopters, armored personnel carriers and bulldozers that were used and the names of other law enforcement agencies that were told about the operation before it began.

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“If you start seeing a trend where an agency isn’t notifying local law enforcement, then we are going to be able to know about it,” Shank said about the provisions in the bill.

He said the November incident in Sharpsburg that involved a search for Terry Porter, of 4433 Mills Road near Sharpsburg, received a disproportionate amount of attention from the Maryland State Police.

Porter turned himself in the next day and was charged with several counts of illegal possession of firearms.

Local residents were upset about the scale of the operation and because the Washington County Sheriff wasn’t notified about the raid in advance.

Shank said he was “pro law enforcement” but the issue in question with the Sharpsburg incident dealt with civil rights.

Parrott, who has also introduced a version of the bill in the House of Delegates, said he hoped that since law enforcement agencies know that the numbers are being reported, “they are going to be a little more careful.”

He said the requirements would be an effective check and balance.

“If they are not notifying the sheriff’s regularly, we will be able to ask why,” Parrott said.

Forehand’s bill with the amendments has received a positive vote from the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.

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