Police accountability efforts were set back on Monday when House Judiciary Chairman Joseph Vallario and vice chair Kathleen Dumais (D-15, Montgomery County) attended a key Criminal Justice subcommittee hearing. Despite not normally being members of the subcommittee, the two conservative Democrats joined the hearing — and cast 2 decisive votes against key provisions of HB1016, the omnibus 32 page police reform bill that is in the subcommittee markup phase following marathon hearings on February 3d.
In a brazen show of favoritism, vice chair Dumais also invited Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) union officials to the table to “advise” the subcommittee on police reform — a lot like an elected chicken inviting the fox to the henhouse to discuss fox reform. No activists, no civil rights lawyers, no police brutality survivors got a seat at Kathleen Dumais’ table — just police union members.
She and Chairman Joseph Vallario then cast the 2 deciding votes in a 6-4 vote allowing local jurisdictions to collectively bargain away the trial board structure otherwise required by state law and HB1016. Montgomery County Delegates Marice Morales (D-19) and Will Smith (D-20) deserve our thanks for being among the 4 votes sticking up for real reform.
The effect in each of the jurisdictions involved — Baltimore City, Baltimore County, and unfortunately Montgomery County* — is to retain the almost unbelievable rule that police officers accused of brutality can select one of 3 administrative hearing board members, and must agree with the police chief on a second one.
Unions had sought to make this a statewide law via the notorious “Recommendation 23” of the “Public Safety Work Group” recommendations forming the core of HB1016. While that proposal appears to have been shelved, at least on the Senate side, the 6-4 vote on Monday still means that police officers in much of Maryland will continue to choose who reviews their own brutality cases — a setback meaning the bill will still fail to meet key demands of the Maryland Coalition for Justice and Police accountability.
Meanwhile, here in Montgomery County, we can start to do something about Dumais’s favoritism towards police unions. First, all Montgomery County residents should call her office and let her know they disapprove of her efforts to thwart real police accountability:
Second, Progressive Maryland is organizing outreach actions this weekend in Dumais’ home base, District 15 (Poolesville/West Montgomery County), to get her constituents to urge her not to oppose any more provisions of real police accountability reform — including subpoena power for civilian investigators, the ability to file anonymous complaints about police misconduct, and outlawing police collusion in manufacturing defense stories.
Please contact PM organizer Justin Vest to sign up at email@example.com. Actions are likely to include canvassing door to door, at transit stops, or both, and asking people to phone Delegate Dumais about police reform on the spot.
* Howard County also has a collective bargaining agreement, I’m not sure what its trial board provisions are.