A legislative forum hosted by Progressive Neighbors last Sunday, January 8, at Silver Spring Civic Center yielded insights into state and county civil rights and civil liberties issues during audience questions.
SWAT reporting, civilian trial board participation
Thomas Nephew (MCCRC) directed his question to Senator Will Smith, asking about (1) his thinking on reintroducing a SWAT team reporting bill Smith introduced as a delegate last year, and (2) whether the Senator was open to pursuing “Section 1”, legislatively created trial boards with voting civilian participation, via a Montgomery County Maryland delegation vote.
Senator Smith explained (1:23) that after passing the house his bill last year stalled in the Senate, in the very Judicial Proceedings Committee he’s joined this year. Motivated in part by the apparent disproportionate deployment or SWAT team deployments in communities of color, the bill would have required police departments to report data about warrant, outcomes, and other data for each deployment. Pointing to Delegate Moon, Smith said, “… we’ll be talking about stuff we’ll be working together on, maybe this is something he’ll be interested in.” He added, “I’m going to work as hard as I can on the Senate side, but it came out of the House last time.”
Regarding civilian trial board participation (2:58), Senator Smith called it a “critical piece of police reform. […] The major point of contention wasn’t along party lines, it was really along whether you would open up something that had been collectively bargained for … in the (what I view as) superseding interest of public safety, meaning that you’d have more civilians part of a review process when police officers get into some sort of trouble.” But while civilians were added, “it isn’t enough, and we haven’t added enough civilians, and it isn’t strong enough.” Smith concluded, “To answer your question very succinctly, yes, I would support that, I’m sure most of us from Montgomery County would support that, but that’s a delicate balance, it’s not along partisan… lines, you’ve got labor and folks that are interested in police reform on opposite sides here. I think there’s a middle ground but I do think this piece, civilian review, is critical and something I’m looking forward to support.”
Profiling, immigrant enforcement, surveillance
Jenny K. wanted to know what actions we might be “…taking affirmatively at the state level to ensure that over the next four years the Muslim American community are being guaranteed their civil liberties and civil rights, not just from things like hate crimes… but also government actions… from surveillance… from registries, from deportation…. I know a lot of this stuff happens at the federal level, but if there are actions that can be taken at the state level to affirmatively declare that the state of Maryland will not cooperate with these efforts, I would like to hear what your ideas are and what your plans are.”
Delegate Ana Sol Gutierrez (D-18) spoke (0:55) of establishing “safe spaces” for immigrants like Takoma Park’s sanctuary policies, and challenging institutions like the University of Maryland to establish such policies as well. She said she’d like to see the county have a “much stronger statement that we do not collaborate with ICE and federal immigration police.” She lauded a Utah initiative to provide work permits for undocumented immigrants.*
Speaking next (4:04), Delegate David Moon (D-20) said, “I don’t foresee our county police participating in federal immigration enforcement, and that’s been policy here for a while… the larger issue is… whether we can adopt a statewide policy of resisting use of local law enforcement for immigration purposes.” Moon acknowledged that Maryland lags states like Massachusetts and DC in being proactive about this, and regretted that it may now become a partisan issue, concluding that “this is an organizing moment, and if those are the cards we’re dealt, let’s just get this thing done.”
Senator Smith added (5:25) that a state level bill authorizing local police department non-cooperation with immigration enforcement would be introduced again this year. After lauding the Takoma Park sanctuary city model, he concluded by noting overlap with other police reform and surveillance legislation initiatives, noting last year’s report of high-resolution, round the clock photographic surveillance of Baltimore.
Reminded that the question was originally about American Muslims — i.e., not necessarily immigrants, documented or otherwise — Delegate David Moon made a number of follow-on comments (7:05). Focusing on surveillance, Moon referred to a bill that would help control use of new surveillance technologies such as the aerial surveillance program Senator Smith referred to, facial recognition, “Stingray” cell phone tower emulators. The bill by Charles Sydnor would create a panel to consider such technologies *before* they’re deployed, not after.
* Following Delegate Sol Gutierrez’s remarks, meeting M.C. Dana Beyer reminded the audience that Howard County executive Allan Kittleman had gone on record opposing a sanctuary proposal by two council members there.