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Union accuses Baltimore County Police chief of "attacking" officers basic rights

Posted at 9:24 AM, Mar 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-04 09:26:20-05

TOWSON, Md. — Baltimore County's Fraternal Order of Police is criticizing Police Chief Melissa Hyatt, claiming she wants to fire officers without due process.

In question is whether officers in the Baltimore County Police Department would be afforded a trial board, in the event they commit a violation while on-duty.

The union accuses Hyatt, who also sits on the Maryland Police Training and Standards Commission, of voting Tuesday to circumvent that process.

FOP 4 President David J. Folderauer called Hyatt's vote an "attack" on officers basic rights. He fears if his members are denied the right to a trial board, it would not only impact the safety and welfare of Baltimore County citizens, but also decimate morale within the department.

Hyatt in a statement Thursday said the union's claims are "factually inaccurate."

"Due process has not been eliminated. I have and will continue to support due process for our police officers," said Hyatt. "Contrary to the FOP Lodge #4 statement, the work of the Maryland Police Training and Standards Commission follows the direction of the Maryland General Assembly in enacting HB 670. As Chief of Police, my priority continues to be the safety of the community and the welfare of my dedicated police officers who protect us all."

The bill Hyatt speaks of passed the 2021 General Assembly. It goes into effect in July and maintains an officer's right to a trial board, which prevents a chief or commissioner from being able to immediately terminate an officer for alleged wrongdoing.

While the trial board usually decides an officer's fate, a chief or commissioner normally has final say over discipline.

Police department heads commonly have authority to appoint who sits on the trial board, as is the case with Hyatt. Traditionally, the board consisted of two upper-level commanders from the agency and one person who is of equal rank as the accused.

In recent years, including in 2021, the Maryland State Legislature has passed laws to include civilians on trial boards, in addition to making some hearings public. Citizens do currently sit on trial boards in Baltimore County.