Maryland at a crossroads on Tuesday – rally for police reform, pack the hearing room!

2015 MD House Judiciary LEOBOR hearings begin, with Del. Jill Carter testifying for HB968.

The lines are drawn for a critical confrontation about the future of Maryland policing and its worst-in-nation “Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights” (LEOBOR) on Tuesday.

As a glance at the day’s work schedule shows, there are literally dozens (32 to be exact) of  bills that will be considered that day, on very important topics ranging from SWAT team reporting to body camera regulations.  But two in particular offer a very clear choice for the state of Maryland — still reeling from the Baltimore uprising of a year ago after Freddie Gray was killed in custody by Baltimore police.

On one side, there’s HB1016, a bill backed by the Senate and House leadership, that largely adopts disappointing or worse recommendations by the “Public Safety and Policing Workgroup.” The improvements the bill proposes are timid — a 10 day delay in interrogating an officer is reduced to 5, a 90 day period to file complaints is extended to 366 days. Worse, it adopts a proposal by police unions to pack officer brutality hearing boards with at least 2 out of 3 members acceptable to the officer — cementing in state code rules that only a few police unions* have been able to obtain at the bargaining table.

On the other, there’s HB760, Delegate Jill Carter’s resubmission of the excellent HB968 bill she offered last year.**  Her bill would properly completely eliminate the administrative interrogation delay and the time to file a complaint, would allow civilians to participate in the LEOBOR hearing boards — and would empower those hearing boards only to hear appeals of police chief disciplinary actions, rather than serving as the primary disciplinary proceeding.

As a Maryland Coalition for Justice and Police Accountability statement (see below) puts it, “Now, our state can either be a national leader on police accountability reform or we make minor changes and continue the status quo – or worse. … Without amendments, the leadership bill would actually create an accountability structure for brutality complaints that’s even worse than the current system. Instead, Maryland must take this historic opportunity to enact a system that achieves just outcomes.”

The same statement issues a clear list of demands for police accountability, many of which are met in HB760 and other bills to be considered on Tuesday.  If what happened to Freddie Gray, or Gary Hopkins, or Dale Graham, or Emmanuel Okutuga have moved you to demand police accountability, not impunity, then — unless it’s substantially amended — the leadership bill HB1016 falls too far short of what’s needed to merit your support.  Join us on Tuesday to demand better.

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* Unfortunately, one of the police unions that has already packed hearing boards in this way is Montgomery County’s.
** HB760 differs from HB968 only by the removal of 2 brackets (“]”,”[“) on page 10 of the bill.

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2 Responses to Maryland at a crossroads on Tuesday – rally for police reform, pack the hearing room!

  1. Pingback: Marylanders show up in Annapolis for police reform – sheriffs, chiefs agree #NoOnRec23 | Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition

  2. Pingback: Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition Rallies and Lobbies for Police Reform in Maryland

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