MCCRC supports Del. Smith’s HB521bill restoring SWAT team reporting

SWAT team. (Via "Will the Growing Militarization of Our Police Doom Community Policing?, cops.usdoj.gov, Community Policing Dispatch)

SWAT team. (Photo via “Will the Growing Militarization of Our Police Doom Community Policing?, cops.usdoj.gov, Community Policing Dispatch)

On February 23d, MCCRC submitted written testimony in support of HB521, a bill sponsored by Delegate Will Smith (D-20) that would require Maryland police departments to annually report detailed data about their SWAT (special weapons and tactics) team deployments. The law would be similar to one passed in 2009, but allowed to lapse due to a sunset provision.

As will be clear from the testimony we submitted (below), we don’t believe the appearance of SWAT teams and the associated “no-knock” raids have been a good development at all in American history.  Or in Maryland’s; to cite some of the statistics gathered during the 2009-2014 period (see our testimony for references.):

  • In FY 2014 (July 1 2013-June 2014), there were 1689 SWAT deployments in Maryland — nearly 5 per day, with well over one a day in P.G. County alone (418 in all).
  • About two of every three SWAT raids used forced entry.
  • Yet in FY 2012, nearly 90 percent of the SWAT raids in Maryland were executed merely to serve search or arrest warrants.  By FY 2014, that figure had actually climbed to 93 percent, leaving only 7 percent for the kinds of emergencies (barricaded structures, bank robberies, hostage situations) that SWAT teams are imagined to respond to exclusively.
  • Half the SWAT deployments in 2012 were for nonviolent “Part II” crimes. The vast majority of those raids were to serve search warrants on people suspected of drug offenses.

518E0PEYFGL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_We strongly support gathering data like this about their deployments, in hopes those data will continue to bear out skeptics like Radley Balko (author of “Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces“) that they are overused, and a step backward for civil rights and civil liberties in America.  This bill would give Maryland another chance to do that.

While HB521 envisions only annual rather than semiannual reporting, that seems a small price to pay for the improvements it makes on the original 2009 law.  Police would resume reporting basic data like location, number of arrests, weapons discharge, and injuries to persons or domestic animals. In addition, HB521 would also require data about the age, gender, and race of detained individuals, as well as a list of all controlled substances, weapons, contraband, or evidence found.  Perhaps most crucially, HB521 would also require police departments to report not just the legal authority and type of warrant involved for each SWAT deployment, but specific data about the alleged crime committed by the suspect.

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Delegate Will Smith (D-20)

In what appeared to be a good sign for the bill’s prospects during oral testimony on Tuesday (beginning at the 6:29:40 mark), Chief David Morris of the Maryland Chiefs of Police Association (MCPA) said he supported the bill with amendments.  His reservations had to do with reporting on all evidence gathered as the result of SWAT team deployments, which he said might might jeopardize the integrity of ongoing investigations or cases resulting from the raid.  We understand an acceptable compromise may be to provide checkbox-style reporting on the kinds of evidence gathered rather than an exhaustive, detailed list.  Delegate Smith said he’d accept the MCPA’s amendments in this regard as friendly ones.

As Delegate Smith pointed out in his final remarks, “Greater transparency means greater trust, and this will benefit both law enforcement and our communities.” We agree — and hope this is a first step to dialing down SWAT team deployments in Maryland.  As a glance at our legislative tracker shows, the Senate crossfile is SB589.

MCCRC testimony follows:

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Marylanders show up in Annapolis for police reform – sheriffs, chiefs agree #NoRec23

Larry Stafford (MCJPA) addresses press conference before Maryland House Judiciary Committee police reform bill hearings, 2/23/16.

Over a hundred advocates of police reform descended on Annapolis on Tuesday to press their case for real police reform and against measures like “Recommendation 23” — packing brutality hearing boards with members favorable to the accused — that would set back that cause.

Rally, press conference
A press conference before the hearing featured advocates bedecked in yellow “Caution” ribbons indicating the strong reservations about that element and others of the House and Senate leadership omnibus police reform bill HB1016 (now crossfiled as Senate bill SB1026).

Larry Stafford (Maryland Coalition for Justice and Police Accountability, MCJPA) led off comments with a remembrance of Marshawn Carroll, a smart, committed young African American Ohio man who had worked with Larry and MCJPA here briefly before returning to Columbus, where he committed suicide earlier this month.  “What has not been reported widely was that before he took his life, he had actually lost a friend to police violence in Ohio. And so recognizing the pain and the trauma that is inflicted on communities across this country when their loved ones lives are lost through police violence, or their freedom is infringed upon because of police misconduct and abuse of their authority, it’s because of that that we’re here today.” Other speakers included:

  • William Rau (Caucus of African American Leaders): “…our elected officials are policymakers who are acting on our behalf.  These walls, this carpet, this podium, the pomp and circumstance, the parliamentary procedure, that is all put into place to do our will.  We must remember that…we are challenging a process that has run amuk.  […] We must let them know we’re paying attention to every single word and every single comment.”
  • Marion Gray-Hopkins (Coalition of Concerned Mothers): “…most importantly, I am a survivor.  My son Gary Hopkins was murdered by the police November 27th 1999.  I’m here with Greta Willis whose son Kevin Cooper was murdered in Baltimore City.  I’m here with Darlene Cain whose son Dale Graham was murdered in Baltimore City in 2008.  And… there are other mothers who are not here who I am representing: Dorothy Elliot – son: Archie Elliot, murdered – over 20+ bullets while he was handcuffed in the back of a patrol car, and it was alleged that there was a gun.  I’m here for Gina Best whose daughter India Kator was murdered in Virginia.  This is not just about Maryland.”
  • Rev. Jamila Woods Jones (Jabez Christian Community Church):“This is not a new issue, we’ve been coming here for years, with the same issues, the same concerns. And while we’re happy that we’re moving forward, we want to acknowledge that there are some fatal flaws that *must* be addressed if we’re going to make this a truly transparent effort that is beneficial to everyone. … Now we’re calling on our legislators, we’re demanding that our legislators hear the cry of the people.  That’s all I have to say.”
  • Sophia Marjanovic: “…during my divorce I met a county sheriff whose conduct concerned me about his neglect of duty and misconduct. I made a complaint of misconduct with the county sheriff’s department. The department did not advise me about whether they’d be investigating the case, and never advised me about whether there was an outcome of an investigation. […] I was later ordered to work with the same sheriff against whom I filed the complaint. […] I’m concerned about retaliation because the officer shouted at me that he didn’t want me filing a complaint against him again. […]  I ask that the agency be required to inform the complainant of the outcome of an investigation.”
  • Kirkland Hall (Somerset County NAACP): “I’m here speaking for a young lady who had been voiceless after what happened to her in 2009.  … The Maryland State Police called her home looking for a young man who had escaped from a work release team.  She wasn’t there.  But he left a message. He said ‘My name is Sergeant Milo, Maryland State Police.  We need for you to call us.’ When he thought he had hung up the phone, he made this statement: ‘I’m getting sick and tired of calling these n*****s on the telephone with these long voice messages.’ […] We could hear other police officers laughing on the phone.  Which tells me there’s a culture of the police department. Which tells me that they are very familiar with the words of Chief Justice Taney many years ago, that a black man has no rights which a white man should respect.”
  • Lawrence Grandpre (Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle):“Some people think this issue of police reform is complicated.  I don’t think so.  You can look at the words of the people who represent the establishment to see what the problem is.  A few days ago [Delegate] Curt Anderson was on the radio. And he said ‘This trial board thing, it doesn’t matter. That’s internal, that’s kind of like a court martial. So we don’t need non-police officers on that board. Think about that. An elected official in Maryland just said that we should have military style justice for civilian police forces.  It’s a small step when you isolate a community and produce a military style accountability system; soon enough you’ll get military style application of policing on the streets.”

Watch this space for videos from the day — including from MCJPA’s own new Youtube channel.

MCJPA volunteer advocate Alonzo Smith after our visit to the offices of Delegates Hettleman and Lierman.

Lobbying
Advocates then fanned out throughout the Lowe House office building, visiting as many delegates as possible with information sheets explaining MCJPA’s demands, and emphasizing “#NoRec23,” to use the Twitter hashtag for the occasion.  Those demands, again:

  • Reduce the unfair advantage given to officers accused of brutality:
    • Don’t let bad cops choose who reviews their own brutality cases.
    • Allow trained civilians to sit on trial boards, ESPECIALLY in brutality cases.
  • Provide local civilian review boards with subpoena power to question officers accused of misconduct.
  • Eliminate the 5 day window that bad cops use to manufacture their story.
  • Outlaw collusion between officers so they don’t lie to protect each other.
  • Treat victims of brutality as well as all other victims fairly:
    • Open up who can file brutality complaints.
    • Eliminate the time restriction on when complaints can be filed.

In my own discussions, I got the sense that some but not all delegates and staffers fully understood community reservations about “Recommendation 23.” I was particularly struck by one staffer’s seeming insistence that the hearing boards were fair because of the accused officer’s and police chief’s need to agree on the 3d, potential tie-breaking member.  It seemed to me the staffer overlooked several important points: Continue reading

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BORDC/DDF’s Sue Udry: FBI iPhone demand seeks “crow bar” into our lives

Sue Udry, exec. director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee/Defending Dissent Foundation (BORDC/DDF). More photos here.

[Yesterday, activists held a protest in Washington DC against the FBI’s efforts to compel Apple to help break the encryption of an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters. MCCRC supported the demonstration with email alerts, and BORDC/DDF Executive Director and MCCRC activist Sue Udry was there and made these remarks, crossposted from the BORDC/DDF web site: FBI is Shamelessly Exploiting Islamophobia and Fear of Terrorism To Gain Encryption Backdoor]

A magistrate judge, an Apple employee, and an FBI agent walk into a bar…..

Actually, only the Apple employee walks in. You know why?

Because the bar didn’t have a back door.

And, actually, because the FBI is too busy spinning this story to go drinking.

This week, FBI Director James Comey told us he wants into this iPhone because “the FBI simply must do all we can under the law to investigate”… what he really meant is that they must do all they can to leave no fear unexploited.

Because that is what the FBI is doing: simultaneously pandering to, exploiting and breeding Islamophobia to get what they want, a crow bar to get into our devices.

The only way you don’t see this is if you ignore the entire history of the FBI.

Like if you go watch Mississippi Burning and you think, wow, that FBI, what civil rights heroes they are.

Just think about all the ways the FBI can pry into our lives: they can use National Security Letters to demand our phone and bank records, scoop up our metadata under the USA Freedom Act, they can use Stingrays, ALPRs, get anything off the cloud, and of course, they can ransack our homes and offices. Without a warrant, without even suspicion of any wrongdoing, FBI agents can infiltrate a social movement like Occupy or Black Lives Matter, they can send a paid informant to pose as a Muslim to join a mosque, befriend and even seduce members in an attempt to entrap them in a fake terror plot, they can dig through our trash, question our friends, co-workers and bosses about us.

Our lives, our thoughts, our relations, are an open book for the FBI. never before have they had access to so much information about so many innocent people. And they are not above using it to harass and repress members of minority groups or groups whose politics they don’t like.

Ask Martin Luther King, ask Fred Hampton, ask Black Lives Matter, Occupy, Environmentalists, peace activists, animal rights activists or any Muslim, south Asian or Arab person in this country what it feels like to be targeted by the FBI for doing nothing illegal.

The FBI can’t have access to every millimeter of our lives, because they screw us when they do.

It’s my I-phone not your FBI-phone. Photo by Sue Udry. More photos here.

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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.

=====
* 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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WMATA: come clean about bag searches, comply with MCCRC records request

[SIGN OUR PETITION AGAINST BAG SEARCHES]

littlewmatasearch

Still from Metro Transit PD video of its bag search process

Last November, the Washington Area Metro Transit Authority (WMATA) police department announced it was resuming a controversial bag search procedure in which (allegedly) random customers are asked to submit to testing of their bags prior to entering the system.

On January 5th, MCCRC filed a “Public Access Records Policy” (PARP) request with WMATA asking for basic information regarding the bag search program: locations and times of deployments, procedures to assure random selections, numbers of false positives, search refusals, reports, costs, and program evaluations.

PARP requests are the WMATA counterpart for the better known “FOIA” (Freedom of Information Act) requests for federal records, and WMATA’s operating guidelines about them explicitly acknowledge the FOIA model.  Like the FOIA process, PARP process has rules, guidelines — and deadlines, which specify (see Section 7.10) that a decision whether to comply should happen within 20 working days (4 weeks) of the request, with the possibility of an additional 10 working day extension if obtaining the information is particularly difficult.

That’s 6 weeks in all —  and that deadline passed a few days ago, on Tuesday the 16th.

Our original request and subsequent correspondence with WMATA can be viewed at  “MuckRock,” a service facilitating FOIA requests like ours.  The MuckRock record shows that we’ve worked with WMATA’s legal department both by email and by phone, documenting our good faith interest in publishing the results as a news provider, narrowing our request from the past 5 years to the last 6 months, and not contesting a frankly outrageous estimate of 200 person hours and more than $4,000 for the 5 year request.  We’re assured that WMATA is working to retrieve the requested information — but we were also assured two weeks ago that we’d hear back by early the next week, and that didn’t happen either.

While we’re disappointed with the current breakdown in WMATA’s PARP process, we remain determined to see it through.  Perhaps this update may help.

Why oppose warrantless, suspicionless bag searches?

To tell the truth, the burden to explain shouldn’t really be on us, it should be on WMATA — and that’s what the PARP request does.  As we’ve said before, warrantless, suspicionless search programs aren’t just unconstitutional — they’re stupid.  And they’re not just stupid — they’re stupid by definition.  The Fourth Amendment is not an inconvenience or a luxury to law enforcement — it is wisdom itself.  What unconstitutional program of picking a few people out at random for no reason from tens of thousands of riders will ever work?  Why would that ever be better than insisting on police having a reason to search a bag?  As we accede to this kind of search and many others, what’s next? Random frisking on city sidewalks?  Oh wait, that’s happening too. Enough is enough.

We believe the information we’re seeking will bear us out.  That’s why it’s important that WMATA finally come clean about its bag search program.

 

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MCCRC 2016 Annapolis legislative tracker

During the coming weeks, MCCRC will be maintaining a list of pending Maryland legislation of particular significance to civil rights and civil liberties in our state. The list — embedded below — is annotated with current MCCRC positions (the first highlighted column).

In addition, we list the positions of Maryland coalitions we support:

  • Maryland Coalition for Justice and Police Accountability (MCJPA)
  • Maryland Alliance for Justice Reform (MAJR)
  • Marijuana Policy Coalition of Maryland (MPCM)
Maryland flag

Maryland House Office Building

Scroll towards the right to see more about each bill — in particular, its sponsor, next hearing date, official synopsis and title. Click on the bill’s HB or SB number to see Maryland General Assembly web site information about it.

When we don’t take a position on a bill, that only means that we haven’t adequately investigated the issue and the legislation yet — or are not sure how urgent it is to do so.  For example, it appears that Delegate Cluster’s HB0252 bill amounts to the kind of Florida-style “stand your ground” legislation that contributed to Trayvon Martin’s death — but it may also be that bill won’t get far.  Given the avalanche of legislation in Annapolis, we simply take note of bills like this one — and are doubtless also overlooking other important bills.

This kind of tracking wouldn’t be possible without the Maryland General Assembly’s legislative tracking tool; to use it, visit the Assembly’s “Legislation Tracking – Main” page, and establish a user name and password.  Then when you see legislation of interest to you, click through to its main web page and click the “blue thumbtack” at the upper right, and begin setting up a tracking list.

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Phonebanking for police reform with Progressive Maryland

  • WHERE: 35 University Blvd, Silver Spring, MD (United Methodist Church; enter via playground) (map)
  • WHEN: Thursday, Feb 18, 6-9pm
  • WHY: Get commitments to join us at a rally and hearings for police reform in Annapolis next Tuesday!
  • RSVP: Progressive Maryland event page

Working together with Progressive Maryland, we urge everyone who can to join us for an informational briefing on police reform legislation Thursday evening at the United Methodist Church offices of Progressive Maryland.  After the briefing, we’ll begin phonebanking to get participants for next Tuesday’s rally and hearings in Annapolis.

Police reform phonebankers, Progressive Maryland office: Denise, Elsa. (2/3/16)

Whether or not you join us tonight, let Progressive Maryland and MCCRC know you demand police accountability by adding your name to those demanding police accountability.  After you sign, we’ll be in touch with you by email, phone, and the Internet about ways to plug in to Maryland Coalition for Justice and Police Accountability (MCJPA) legislative strategies for police reform in the coming weeks and months.

Two important notes:

  1. First, while you don’t have to, the most helpful thing you can do is provide your address and phone number via the signature page.  That way…
    1. if members of your Annapolis delegation need to hear from us, we’ll know you’re in their district, and
    2. we can reach you quickly to get your help emailing, calling, or visiting them.
  2. Second, Progressive Maryland will share this contact information with MCCRC when it’s gathered via links from MCCRC blog posts like this one, emailings, and Facebook posts; we’ll use that information for this and other civil rights and civil liberties work in the future.

See you at six o’clock tonight — and in Annapolis on Tuesday!

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MCCRC testimony on HB257 historical location data bill by Del. Moon

MCCRC submitted written testimony today in support of an “admirably succinct” bill, HB257, by Delegate David Moon (D-20, Montgomery County) that would address a major loophole in Maryland electronic surveillance law: the ability to view historical location data.

By adding just two phrases to the Maryland Code (“OR HISTORICAL DATA,” ‘that is “OR WAS” generated by or derived from the operation of [an electronic device]’) and one paragraph, the bill would require law enforcement agencies to obtain court permission to examine historical location data obtained from electronic devices such as cell phones or cell phone records.

As can be imagined, access to historical location data is a treasure trove of information about you in today’s cell phone age.  As Sara Love, ACLU-Maryland’s legislative director put it, “We believe [historical tracking] is in some ways a more serious invasion of privacy [than real-time tracking]  – where you have been says a lot about you (do you go to the gym?  A bar?  Spend the night at someone else’s house?).” 

The Electronic Privacy Information Center’s extensive entry on locational privacy makes the added important point that “When individuals are moving about in public and private spaces, they do not expect to be tracked wherever they go. […] Cell phones, smartphones, and other mobile devices (e.g. laptops and tablets) can be located whenever they are turned on. Current location-tracking technologies can be used to pinpoint users of mobile devices in several ways. … historical location can frequently be discerned from service provider records.”

maltespitz

Selected 2009 historical cell phone location data for German Bundestag delegate Malte Spitz. Map produced by German newsweekly “Die Zeit.” Click image or link for a closer view and to run the time-lapse movie of his September 2009 to February 2010 movements.

As we note in our testimony, one extremely compelling demonstration of using service provider records was provided by German Green Party delegate Malte Spitz in 2009.  He obtained a six month log of his own records from Deutsche Telekom (T-Mobile owner) and, in collaboration with the German newsweekly Die Zeit, was able to construct a daily, often hourly and even minute to minute journal of his movements over that time span.

We’re proud to support this bill, and grateful to Delegate Moon for introducing it.  The bill has 12 co-sponsors (including  nine fellow Judiciary Committee members including Delegate Will Smith, also D-20). Montgomery County residents may want to contact Delegates Moon, Smith, and Morales (D-19) to commend them for advancing this bill, but also Delegate Kathleen Dumais (D-15, Potomac/Poolesville) to urge her to support it as well.

Written testimony follows:

Continue reading

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Guest post: Montgomery County electronic voting finally gets a real paper trail

Voting is one of the most fundamental civil rights — but electronic systems used by Maryland and Montgomery County have been vulnerable to abuse. Now new systems, to be deployed in April, promise improvement. Guest author Robert Lanza explains.

DS200 Ballot Box (ESS)

DS200 Ballot Box (ESS)

I attended a presentation by Montgomery County Board of Elections outreach, to introduce our new voting machines.  There will be two systems, one for the Early Voting period and one for Election Day voting.  Both systems are electronic (touch screen) systems that will generate a paper ballot (permanent) record of the votes cast. This conforms (finally) to legislation passed unanimously by the Maryland legislature about ten years ago that required a state-wide paper ballot system.

The short explanation for the ten-year delay is that the recession hit shortly after the legislation passed, and there was never any budget to purchase new voting machines until now.  There was also foot-dragging by the State Election Administrator.  The explanation for the fact that there are two different systems for Early Voting and for Election Day is that there aren’t enough of the type of machines that will be used during the Early Voting period to also deploy on Election Day, when voter volume will be much higher. Montgomery County intends to go to a single type of paper ballot system for the next election, and has leased the voting machinery only for 2016 rather than purchase the voting machinery outright, to allow for future improvements and system harmonization.

The Montgomery County Board of Education referenced that “Takoma Park activists” were in part responsible for the paper ballot system.

ExpressVote (ESS)

ExpressVote (ESS) – allows voters with disabilities to vote privately and independently.

Some meeting attendees still questioned why Maryland needs paper ballots. This is an important responsibility of the Montgomery County Board of Elections outreach, to better explain that this isn’t just the law, it is also a good idea.  One recent example is hackers who recently conducted an experiment to hack into an automobile on-board computer system, using a wireless system, and “drove” the automobile remotely while the driver (who was in on the experiment) just sat there.

Also, some meeting attendees were grumbling about the fact that Maryland doesn’t require voter ID every time people vote (ID is required to register and for first-time voters.)  There is this Great Myth that “voter impersonation” is rampant, when there is no evidence that this is the case.  The Montgomery County Board of Elections outreach representative noted that there have been some “intentional” instances of voter impersonation (activists trying to prove that it can be done to make a political point, and committing a felony in the process).  A rational way to look at this is that a voter impersonator can change one vote. A hacker with a wireless system can change all the votes.

The Montgomery County Board of Elections has lots of info about the new paper ballot systems on their website:

http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/elections/index2.html

Anyway, an accomplishment for us activists.

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Police reform coalition responds in detail to Annapolis recommendations

Last summer, in the wake of the Freddie Gray unrest in Baltimore, a “Public Safety and Policing Work Group” (PSWG) of Annapolis legislators was convened to belatedly acknowledge some need for police reform, following the all but complete denial of reform efforts in the 2015 legislative session.  On January 11, that group released a report and list of 23 recommendations, some good, but some quite bad — especially #23, which effectively hands control of administrative hearings in use-of-force incidents to police union representatives, by giving them statutory control over 2 of 3 persons seated as hearing board members.

12313696_779577405521004_486169043346165051_nThe Maryland Coalition for Justice and Police Accountability has drafted a detailed list of responses to the PSWG recommendations. Before taking up objections, it’s worth noting that the recommendations as a whole were described as “a good first step,” and that fully fifteen of the 23 recommendations (#6-9, #11-13, #15-22) met with no objection or comment at all, and are entirely welcomed by MCJPA. These recommendations have to do with whistleblower protections, transparency of police department policies, and statewide law enforcement training standards and a new, independent Maryland Police Training and Standards Commission (MPTSC) created to compile and promulgate them.

For the remaining recommendations, one way to summarize MCJPA objections is:

  • Complaints should be made easier to file, not harder: even a year is too short a time to file one — there shouldn’t be a time limit at all (#1), complainants shouldn’t have to divulge their identity, or have to be related or present at the time of the incident (#2, 3), since they may reasonably fear reprisal.
  • Officers facing hearings should not get to “get their stories straight”: the proposed 5-day rule to retain counsel is 5 days too many (#4).  There should be an explicit non-collusion provision attached to any such rule.
  • Civilian participation in police oversight must be guaranteed, meaningful, not for show: investigations should not be restricted to sworn law enforcement officers (#5), civilians should not be shut out of use-of-force incident hearings (#23), and it should be clarified that civilians have a place in the proposed MPTSC (#10).
  • Police can’t self-police: giving police unions statutory authority to seat one member of hearing boards and veto a second one (#23) puts them in control of the disciplinary process — a step back, not a step forward.  “Currently the FOP has no role in choosing members of the trial board and this change would dramatically shift the power dynamic in the favor of officers accused of misconduct.

The detailed MCJPA responses can be read below or at the MCJPA web site currently on Facebook.

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