State legislators from Baltimore said yesterday they will hold a public hearing into whether city police tactics have become too aggressive amid an effort by Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley to reduce crime.
Lawmakers said the hearing early next year will be in response to controversy over the use of "stop-and-frisk" procedures and concerns about the large number of people who are arrested but ultimately not charged with crimes.
"These are Gestapo tactics, all in a mad rush to get crime down, and it isn't working," said Del. Jill P. Carter (D-Baltimore), who has been pushing since summer for a legislative review.
Steve Kearney, a spokesman for O'Malley, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor next year, said the mayor's office "welcomes any chance to talk about what our police department and our neighbors have accomplished together reducing crime."
Violent crime in Baltimore has declined by more than 37 percent since O'Malley took office, according to city statistics, although the city remains one of the nation's most violent.
Critics say that in an effort to break up drug corners and deter more serious crime, police have become too aggressive in making arrests on lesser charges that are difficult for prosecutors to prove, such as loitering and disorderly conduct.
Over a year's time, 21,721 of 95,907 people arrested in Baltimore were not charged with a crime, according to statistics Carter provided to House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel).
"The question that's been raised is, are the police over-policing?" said Margaret Burns, a spokeswoman for Baltimore State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy.
Kristen Mahoney, chief of technical services for the Baltimore Police Department, said it is not fair to assume that police did not have cause to arrest those who ultimately were not charged. Prosecutors in Baltimore, unlike other Maryland jurisdictions, decide within the first 24 hours whether to press charges. In many cases, Mahoney said, they decide that the detention of the person has already served its purpose.
Del. Salima Siler Marriott (D-Baltimore), chair of the Baltimore House delegation, said a joint hearing with Senate members will be held Jan. 4.