Police Accountability Nancy Soreng Team Leader
LWVMD, along with other members of the Maryland Coalition for Justice and Police Accountability, focused our advocacy on 5 reforms to policing:
- Repeal the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights (LEOBR)
- Allow all investigations into police misconduct to be disclosed under the Maryland Public Information Act
- Pass a law prohibiting the use of force unless it is necessary (not merely reasonable), with both criminal penalties and the power for civil enforcement
- Give the people of Baltimore City the ability to govern the Baltimore City Police Department
- Take armed police officers out of schools
5 bills ultimately passed which incorporated 4 of these reforms.
HB 670: Maryland Police Accountability Act of 2021- Police Discipline and Law Enforcement Programs and Procedures was originally called the Police Reform and Accountability Act of 2021 and contained numerous recommendations from the Police Accountability Workgroup that was appointed by Speaker Jones in the summer of 2020. The most significant reform in HB 670 was the repeal of the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights (LEOBR) and creation of a statewide discipline process for police officers. Under this provision each county will have a Police Accountability Board (PAB) that will among other duties, receive complaints of police misconduct filed by members of the public and appoint civilian members to charging committees and trial boards. Status: Vetoed by Governor, veto overridden during session.
SB 178: Maryland Police Accountability Act of 2021 – Search Warrants and Inspection of Records Relating to Police Misconduct (Anton’s Law) was originally called Public Information Act - Personnel Records - Investigations of Law Enforcement Officers (Anton's Law). Passage of this bill means that a record relating to an administrative or criminal investigation of misconduct by a police officer is no longer considered a personnel record which is non-disclosable by law. This legislation finally allows for the release of information relating to investigations of both sustained and un-sustained complaints of misconduct. Custodians may redact portions of a record that reflect the medical information of the officer, information relating to the family of the officer, and personal contact information of the officer or witness. However, this bill will allow for inspection of records that include relevant medical information about injuries sustained during the event under investigation. Status: Vetoed by Governor, veto overridden during session.
SB 71: Maryland Police Accountability Act of 2021 - Body-Worn Cameras, Employee Programs, and Use of Force incorporated elements of SB 626 Maryland Police Accountability Act of 2021 - Law Enforcement Officers - Use of Force, Reporting, and Whistleblower Protections that passed the Senate, but was not moved out of the House. SB 71 raises the legal standard to say force is only authorized when it is necessary and proportional, based on the totality of the circumstances. Officers must de-escalate when time, circumstances, and safety allow; intervene to prevent excessive use of force; provide or obtain appropriate medical assistance after a use of force incident; and document all use of force incidents. The bill also includes provisions for training and requires all local and state law enforcement officers to wear body cameras by 2025 with an earlier implementation date for larger jurisdictions. Status; veto override
SB 786: Maryland Police Accountability Act of 2021 - Baltimore City - Control of the Police Department of Baltimore City will put the question of giving the City of Baltimore control of its police for the first time since the 1860’s before the voters of Baltimore City in 2022 or 2024 for implementation in 2023 or 2025. In the meantime, it establishes an Advisory Board that is tasked with studying potential issues related to the transfer of authority. Status: sent to Governor.
None of the bills to remove, reallocate funding, or redefine policing in schools passed. Advocacy on this issue will continue over the summer and into the next session. Local and national initiatives are underway to continue to collect data on the impact of School Resource Officers (SROs) on students and school safety. Efforts to educate the public and legislators about this issue will continue.
League testimony on SB 178 - Public Information Act - Personnel Records - Investigations of Law Enforcement Officers (Anton's Law), HB 496 Primary and Secondary Education – Mental Health Services – Expansion (Counselors Not Cops Act), SB 627 - Law Enforcement Officers' Bill of Rights - Repeal and Procedures for Discipline, HB 1089 Primary and Secondary Education – Expansion of Mental Health Services and Prohibition of School Resource Officers (Police–Free Schools Act), SB 626 Maryland Police Accountability Act of 2021 - Law Enforcement Officers - Use of Force, Reporting, and Whistleblower Protections can be found on the Testimony page of the LWVMD website.