February 22, 2019
Although many government offices closed due to the snow this week, the State Senate continued its work. This week and next, the Senate is holding hearings on legislation I’m proposing to keep us all safer.
Tackling Police Recruitment Challenges
There have been countless reports about the difficulty police departments are having attracting new officers. According to the Federal Bureau of Justice Statistics, the average number of full-time sworn officers decreased by 11% nationwide. Locally, in Montgomery County, there were 300 fewer applicants in 2018 than there were 10 years ago.
I believe that veterans who have served our country should have the opportunity to continue to serve and protect our communities. In addition to helping resolve the police recruitment challenges, the bill would serve to enhance the racial and ethnic diversity of the applicant pool.
My legislation, ” Freedom to Serve, “ (SB853) was heard in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. Testifying with me in support of this legislation were: Tom Manager, Montgomery County Police Chief and President of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, David Morris, Riverdale Police Chief, and Joseph Pruden from the American Legion.
Spotlight: Modernizing our 9-1-1 Systems
Most 9-1-1 technology is based on the phone systems over 51 years old. Nobody would use a computer or television built in 1968. Our phones are vastly different from the rotary dial landlines we had then. It is time to modernize this crucial public safety equipment to the world of 2019.
As you know, I’ve been working to help Maryland move to Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG911) since I began serving in the State Senate. Maryland is behind 22 other states in making the transition. I continue to be inspired by the loss of my friend and Rockville activist Carl Henn, who died after being struck by lightning at a community picnic. 9-1-1 failed Carl that day. Over the past several years, I have traveled the State, learning about the issues and building support for change.
The statewide Commission I am honored to chair released the first of two 9-1-1 reports, which included 23 recommendations approved unanimously. Based on that report, I’m working with a variety of stakeholders and a bipartisan group of colleagues to introduce three bills to upgrade Maryland to NG911.
New technology will save lives. It will make it easier for emergency services to find someone calling on a cell phone, which is currently difficult. I am often asked why the pizza guy can find us, but First Responders may not. With NG911, this will get much better. Most of us carry smartphones with cameras, but we currently can’t send texts, videos, or photos in an emergency. Geographic location and alternative outreach options will assist police, fire, and paramedics get to the correct location, faster, and with the required equipment. According to the Wall Street Journal, up to 10,000 lives could be saved annually if emergency services arrived on the scene even one minute faster. Upgrading to NG911 will help accomplish this.
These bills include much more. They would make it easier to train and retain our 9-1-1 Specialists, our “First, First Responders.” Passing this legislation would fix the loophole in the way Maryland assesses the fee. The current method provides our counties with an average of just 37.5% of the cost of providing 9-1-1 service. This forces local governments to cover the remaining balance, spending money that could be spent schools, roads, and social services. These bills would also protect our 9-1-1 centers from cyberattacks, which have become more common. The Commission examined all of these issues, and these bills reflect our unanimous recommendations.
Going National… and International!
I was honored to spend part of Valentine’s Day with some people who really look after our hearts. And our legs. And the rest of us. The National Emergency Number Association (NENA) describes itself as the “Voice of 9-1-1.” It was exciting to speak at their annual “NENA Goes to Washington” event. While meeting representatives from North Carolina to Maui, I offered insights as to what we’ve accomplished here in Maryland. They were interested in how we have come together to establish the bipartisan, broad Commission that I chair… and how they can bring that same spirit back home!
Again this year, I went to the Folk Alliance International convention. In addition to enjoying remarkable talent from around the world, I continue to lobby to bring FAI to Maryland. Besides the prestige and visibility, it would have a significant economic development impact as it brings thousands of people for the conference! I’m hoping for 2023 and will keep you posted…
You can also follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for photos and posts. Please check my website for information about internships, Senatorial Scholarships, and more. And, you can always send questions or comments to me via email.
Cheryl C. Kagan
State Senator, District 17
(Gaithersburg & Rockville)
P.S.: I was one of the earliest co-sponsors of medical marijuana when it was first introduced. I am proud of the progress our State has made. However, any drug that helps people can also be abused. Whether it’s the opioid crisis or medical marijuana, we need to be aware of the risks of impaired driving. Through legislation, I am working with the Montgomery County Police to ensure that our law enforcement officers can keep all of us safe.
P.P.S.: BREAKING NEWS! Late last night, we passed my statewide expanded polystyrene foam ban out of committee! It will be considered by the full Senate next week. Be sure to contact your legislators so they know of your strong support for this important environmental legislation… with no weakening amendments.