Mayor Catherine Pugh‘s list of nominees to fill the city’s largely-vacant Civilian Review Board includes several academics and attorneys, as well as a former high-ranking official in the Baltimore Sheriff’s Office, The Baltimore Sun has confirmed.
The Civilian Review Board considers complaints alleging excessive force, abusive language, harassment, false arrest and false imprisonment by police agencies in the city. It also reviews police policy and makes recommendations to police leaders, though it has no power to force change.
Pugh’s eight nominations are intended to fill the nine-member panel, which has been criticized as ineffective and has struggled with turnover and empty seats in the past.
Pugh’s office declined to confirm the identities of the nominees or provide their biographical information or qualifications, a departure from how past administrations in the city and at the state level have handled political nominations for years.
Joyce Green, the current acting chair of the board, said she was blindsided by the news the mayor had nominated someone else to fill her Central Baltimore seat.
“I was told to resubmit my application. I did that. I never heard anything else,” said Green, who also serves as president of the Central District Police Community Relations Council. “I’m done.”
Anthony McCarthy, Pugh’s spokesman, said Green was a “holdover” whose “term is up” and who is not being reappointed.
The nominees’ names were provided Thursday by Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young‘s office, which said the nominations likely will go before the council next month.
Several nominees told the Sun they were asked by the administration not to publicly comment on their nominations prior to confirmation by the City Council, though Pugh’s spokesman denied it.
Academics nominated to the board include Danielle Carter Kushner, an assistant professor of political science at St. Mary’s College of Maryland; Leslie Parker Blyther, program coordinator at the Homeland Security and Criminal Justice Institute at Anne Arundel Community College; and Bridal Pearson, a health and human services lecturer at the University of Baltimore.
Pearson, nominated to represent North Baltimore, said he was excited about the opportunity to serve on the board and give back to the city, where he also teaches community meditation classes and volunteers. He said his background as a researcher will allow him “to evaluate, analyze data, make data driven decisions” and be “objective in emotionally charged situations.”
Kushner, nominated to represent East Baltimore, declined to comment. Blyther, nominated to represent West Baltimore, could not be reached for comment.
Mathematician Melvin Currie, nominated to represent Southwest Baltimore, also worked at multiple universities before a quarter-century career at the National Security Agency. He is now president of the Dickeyville Community Association.
“I certainly have some opinions on what’s happened, certainly in the last 30 years, as far as policing is concerned and the tensions that exist in our society between police and various communities,” Currie said. “We should bring as much rationality to bear as possible, and I think I am in a position to think of this rationally.”
If confirmed, Currie said he would be an outspoken member of the panel who would point out problems.
Frederick Jackson, nominated to represent Northwest Baltimore on the board, retired from the Baltimore Sheriff’s Office in 2014 as a captain and chief of internal affairs. A woman who answered the phone at a number listed for Jackson on Friday said he declined to comment.
In an article about his retirement in The AFRO, Jackson — a West Baltimore native — said that during his law enforcement career, he “could not stand it when the police would come over like they were overseers and not helpers.”
Attorneys nominated to the board include Blair Thompson, a former public defender who is now an attorney advisor at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and Danielle Williamson, a civil litigation attorney with Blibaum Law. Thompson, nominated to represent Southeast Baltimore, declined to comment. Williamson, nominated to represent Central Baltimore, could not be reached for comment.
Andrew Reinel, an educator with Living Classrooms, said he turned down his nomination to represent South Baltimore because he doesn’t live or work in the district.
Michael Ross is already on the commission, representing Northeast Baltimore.
The Civilian Review Board has been criticized for years as having little authority to force change, and a Baltimore Sun analysis found police did not forward to the board more than two-thirds of the police misconduct cases under its purview between 2013 and 2015.
The police department agreed last year to provide the board with complaints about officer misconduct, and Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said his department is working closely with the panel to provide it with information.
The city is also in the process, under its police reform consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice, of creating a task force to review the functions and effectiveness of the board.
Jill Carter, director of the city’s Office of Civil Rights and Wage Enforcement, which oversees the Civilian Review Board, said the nominees are qualified and represent “a diverse group that collectively brings diversity of race, gender, educational background and life experience.”
“Past boards have been plagued by a multitude of impediments. Among them: lack of credibility, authority, and transparency. The public has not had faith that bringing complaints to the board could produce any tangible results,” Carter said. “This board will be different.”