Following a resident petition, the Greenbelt City Council will consider establishing guidelines for handling employees under investigation for child pornography.
At a June 16 work session, Mayor Emmett Jordan said he would direct staff to develop a policy dealing with city employees who work with children and are charged with child pornography.
“What I’ve asked Mr. McLaughlin to do is to identify a class of employees, before an incident comes up, that depending on the circumstances of the case, would be suspended while an investigation takes place,” Jordan said.
Resident John Abell said he was concerned about the lack of public notification when a Greenbelt resident working at the library was arrested on possession of child pornography charges in December 2011. Police sent out no notification of the arrest until after the individual’s conviction in August 2012.
“Silence covered Greenbelt for all those months in between,” Abell said. “For me, because of the seriousness of the crime, I felt that was wrong.”
Abell submitted a petition to the City Council in October 2012, requesting the city adopt a six-point plan for dealing with future sex offense arrests.
His petition included notification of the public of crimes involving children, notification of employers when someone is arrested of child pornography, create a list of job classes that cannot be performed by someone under investigation for child pornography and to encourage therapy for those convicted of child pornography.
“For lesser crimes, the city will release the names of people charged, for instance driving under the influence,” Abell said. “I wish they had given that far more serious consideration.”
City Manager Michael McLaughlin said the city has no policy in regards to employees under investigation for child pornography.
“We treat it on a case-by-case basis,” McLaughlin said.
Greenbelt Police Captain Thomas Kemp said it is the department’s policy not to send out the names of those charged with certain sex crimes.
“As long as the investigation does not show an ongoing threat, our guidelines state that we will not release a press release until there is a determination of guilt,” Kemp said.
Mayor Pro Tem Judith “J” Davis said she supported the policy, as it is important the city act on the presumption of innocence until there is a conviction.
“We have to be very, very careful that we are not putting something on an innocent person that will ruin their life,” Davis said.
Abell said he understands there must be a balance between the presumption of innocence and protecting the community.
“But the weight of this crime I think, tips the balance in favor of more press releases,” Abell said.