Annapolis, MD – On Friday, Senate leadership held a press conference to announce a package of bills on police reform and accountability to create a more equitable criminal justice system for all Marylanders.
The legislation is the result of the work begun by the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee last summer, followed by initial bill hearings held in September 2020. Over the past three weeks, the members of the committee held long work and voting sessions to work out the details of these bills. The package together represents the most comprehensive and cumulative overhaul of policing policy in generations, and a commonsense approach to restoring trust in policing in Maryland.
“We must restore a sense of accountability, transparency, and trust between law enforcement and the Marylanders whom they serve,” stated Senate President Bill Ferguson. “I am grateful to Chairman Smith, Senators Carter, and Sydnor, and all members of the Judicial Proceedings committee for approaching this work with the seriousness it deserves. I look forward to this passing through the Senate next week.”
“We cannot continue allowing systemic injustices in our policing system to go unattended,” said Chair William C. Smith, Jr. “In September, the Judicial Proceedings Committee formally began working on these critical public safety issues. Since then we have heard from experts, advocates, the law enforcement community, and everyday Marylanders sharing their experiences and opinions. In committee, we have spent the time necessary to develop this package of bills which restore true accountability and transparency in policing.”
The bills include:
? Repealing the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights and establishing fair, accountable, and universal standards and procedures for handling police misconduct (Senate Bill 627)
? Establishing a statewide use of force standard that includes the duty to report, the duty to intervene, and protections for whistleblowers (Senate Bill 626)
? Ensuring officers wear and use body-worn cameras (Senate Bill 71)
? Creating an independent investigation process for police-involved deaths and ensuring officers who commit wrongdoing are held accountable by the Office of the State Prosecutor (Senate Bill 600)
? Expanding access to police misconduct records under the Maryland Public Information Act (Senate Bill 178)
? Eliminating police access to unnecessary military equipment (Senate Bill 599)
? Promoting the well-being of officers through access to mental health services (Senate Bill 74)
? Restoring local control of the Baltimore City Police Department (Senate Bill 786)
? Curtailing the use of no-knock warrants (Senate Bill 419)
“The foundation of public safety is trust between law enforcement officers and the people who they are committed to serving,” stated Senator Jill P. Carter. “This trust has been fractured by years of police misconduct and brutality that has been insufficiently addressed. Through measures of accountability such as establishing a clear and enforceable use of force standard, removing the cloak of secrecy enshrining disciplinary records from the public, and repealing the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights, we can start to rebuild trust.”
“This legislation will ensure that law enforcement officers who are serving Marylanders equitably and with integrity can continue to do good work, and those who are causing harm will be held accountable,” said Senator Michael A. Jackson. “These frameworks are necessary to preserve the humanity of both people and police.”
“The changes in this package increase accountability and transparency, and in turn can keep someone else from having to lose their life in a police encounter,” said LaToya Holley, sister of Anton Black, a Black Maryland teenager who was killed in 2018 after being chased and subdued by police.
“Duty to intervene, duty to report, accountability in body-worn camera procedures – these are all fundamental, sound principles of policing,” said Ken Williams, a former Boston-area homicide detective and one of the leading use of force experts in the country. “I am glad Maryland is taking the steps to codify these principles and have uniformity across all State agencies.”
The legislation was explained in the Senate today and will be debated next week before final passage.