On Monday the Maryland legislature’s Public Safety and Policing work group issued 23 specific recommendations for police reform (reprinted in full at the end of this post). Many of the recommendations — which will be featured in a bill or bills to be submitted by the majority leaders of both houses — directly amend or revise the so-called “Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights” (LEOBR) administrative rules that have allowed Maryland police to commit brutality and even kill with near impunity for years.
Among the highly anticipated changes:
- (1) The LEOBR complaint filing deadline triggering the requirement that disciplinary action be undertaken by a law enforcement agency shall be extended from 90 days to a year and a day. […]
- (4) The time period for retaining an attorney for the internal investigation and disciplinary process under LEOBR shall be reduced from 10 days to 5 days.
- (5) As is the case in some jurisdictions, all law enforcement agencies in the State shall open their administrative LEOBR hearing board proceedings to the public. The General Assembly shall strike the statutory prohibition against citizen participation to allow a jurisdiction to permit a citizen who has received training in LEOBR to sit as a member of the administrative hearing board.
In response, the Maryland Coalition for Justice and Police Accountability (MCJPA), of which MCCRC is a member organization, issued this statement:
The coalition recognizes the positive votes today by the Maryland Public Safety and Policing Workgroup, which are an important start to allow for increased civilian participation in misconduct investigations, more transparency for the community and victims, and more robust training. We appreciate the time and effort put in by the workgroup. Nonetheless, there remain important areas that need improvement to ensure real accountability, especially in communities targeted by racially biased over-policing. Reforms that are still needed include lifting the restriction on who can file a police brutality complaint, lifting the restriction that only sworn law enforcement personnel may investigate complaints, and requiring that complainants identify themselves. In addition, we are concerned about a last-minute addition to the recommendations that would change the composition of the trial board to give the FOP a greater role in the discipline process.
The final point of the statement refers to a controversial 23d recommendation:
- (23) The LEOBR shall be amended to require that for use of force incidents, the trial board shall be composed of one member selected by the Chief or Sheriff, one member selected by the FOP [Fraternal Order of Police – ed.]/affected employee, and one member who is mutually agreed upon. The members must be selected from a pool of police officers who are not from the affected officer’s jurisdiction. One member must be of equal rank to the affected employee. A collective bargaining agreement may specify a different method of choosing a trial board.
…which all but guts the impact of recommendation #5: if Officer Jones stole a doughnut, civilians can be on his hearing board, but if Officer Jones shot a man, they can’t. Moreover, an LEOBR implementing recommendation #23 would give police unions a Maryland statute guaranteeing they can appoint 2 out of 3 hearing board members, when that was something they needed to negotiate for in the past.* The FOP must be ROTFL — they may actually be better off in 2016 than they were in 2015, at least on this score.
So join us next Monday, Martin Luther King Day, when the MCJPA coalition will hold a press conference, rally, and die-in on Lawyers Mall in Annapolis to to demand strong, real police accountability legislation by the Maryland General Assembly in 2016.
The full list of 23 recommendations follows:
- Maryland panel recommends major changes to police practices (Washington Post)
- Maryland task force recommends 22 police reforms (Baltimore Sun)
- Maryland Police Reform Efforts Focus on Transparency (TheRealNews)
* See current Maryland Code (Public Safety Title 3, Section 107).