Police Accountability Reform
submitted by Ericka McDonald
The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan organization that works to influence
public policy through education and advocacy. The League of Women Voters advocates against systemic racism in the justice system and, at a minimum, for preventing excessive force and brutality by law enforcement. The League supports a criminal justice system that is just, effective, equitable, transparent, and that fosters public trust at all stages.
The Maryland Police Accountability Act of 2021 sought to make changes to limit police brutality and hold police accountable for misconduct by the communities they work on behalf of. The bill included clear limits for use of force by police, the creation of local Police Accountability Boards(PAB) to oversee a revised police misconduct investigation process that includes civilian oversight for the first time, as well as the release of misconduct investigation records which were previously inaccessible by the public.
The League of Women Voters is a member of the Maryland Coalition for Justice and Police Accountability (MCJPA), which includes over 90 organizations that advocated for reforms that lead to the Maryland Police Accountability Act of 2021. In 2022 members of the MCJPA focused on the transparent creation of strong PABs in counties throughout Maryland and the monitoring the implementation of Anton’s Law. Throughout Maryland, the FOP and Police Departments attempted to limit the powers of the PABs and access to police misconduct records enabled by Anton’s Law, resulting in local advocacy efforts and lawsuits.
In addition to these ongoing efforts, the MCJPA is prioritizing two bills during the 2023 session :
Odor Searches - This bill will ban marijuana-based odor searches which is the source of many police interactions that lead to violence and death and disproportionately impact Black and brown Marylanders.
PAB Investigatory Powers - This bill will clarify language in the Maryland Police Accountability Act of 2021 to allow local bodies to give PABs independent investigatory powers.