County Councilman Todd Crandell raised concerns at a Baltimore County Council meeting this week about the state’s attorney office’s decision to allow a prolific police killer from leaving prison early.
Crandell, who represents an area in western Baltimore County that includes parts of the county’s central business district, said at the meeting that the “unilateral change of policy” by State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger has “caused a perception of a message of permissiveness” and is distracting law enforcement from fighting violent crime.
Crandell’s comments came as part of a broader call from the council for the sheriff’s office to hire an additional deputy to work downtown, which he said is necessary to fill a vacancy in the street-level force as the county’s violent crime rate continues to increase.
Shellenberger’s policy on inmate eligibility allows inmates who have a commitment level of 17 to exit from prison after serving 50 percent of their sentences. Shellenberger said the change allows less-violent criminals to be released from prison when needed in order to ensure public safety.
The state’s attorney office announced the change this year to police. Assistant State’s Attorney Jodi Laidlaw announced the decision at a previous council meeting.
Crandell has been a longtime critic of former State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger’s decision to not prosecute police officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray, who died after a week-long police chase in Baltimore last year. The decision drew criticism from both local and state leaders, as well as thousands of citizens across the country.
After a public outcry, Shellenberger agreed to re-review the case.
Crandell is a supporter of deputy Sheriff Fergus Milburn.
Milburn, who will be sworn in to his position next month, has been serving as interim deputy sheriffs. A recent review by the state Office of the Inspector General found that while Milburn and his staff were excellent, they did not have the proper resources and skills to replace the staff they had inherited in 2017 when the state attorney’s office laid off most of the remaining permanent staffers.
Milburn will be the first black sheriff in the county’s history.
Council members voted Monday to approve a resolution calling on Shellenberger to reassign as many new staff as possible to the county sheriff’s office downtown, and to pay for them to be reassigned. Crandell voted against the resolution.
“I don’t know how you can rush this through,” Crandell said, “to get the budget in place and the programming started.”
Crandell said it could take two years to find the appropriate resources to hire the new staff. “We need your help,” Crandell said to Milburn, and praised him for taking over a difficult situation.
After Crandell voted against the resolution, Milburn added that it’s unlikely the sheriff’s office would be able to meet the deadline of 30 days to train and add the new staff. Milburn said he needs to find an interim solution, and will work with Crandell on how to handle the transition.
Elected officials have also expressed concerns about the crime rate since the latest budget was introduced in July. Crandell called on the county’s chief operating officer to provide him with an analysis of the crime rate prior to introducing the latest budget.
Crandell said he’s confident that the County Council is in control of the budget process. Crandell said he is a big fan of Milburn and will vote for him to become the next sheriff.
“I love [Milburn], I support him,” Crandell said. “I have no problem giving him some slack.”
This story has been updated.