ACLU, FOP and Legislators Discussed Stalled Police Reform Bills at Community Forum

At a forum held Wednesday in Prince George’s County, a panel including a state senator, a representative from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and the president of the state Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) discussed a number of police reform bills introduced this past legislative session that failed to be passed by the general assembly. As reported in The Baltimore Sun:

Pastor Delman Coates, who acted as the moderator, grilled Vince Canales, the president of the state Fraternal Order of Police, state Sen. Victor R. Ramirez and others about the 17 police brutality-related bills proposed in the past year that stalled in committees. The discussion, held at Coates’ Mt. Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton, was organized in response to the failed bills and unrest over the death of Freddie Gray.

Canales said the union opposed the bills because they were badly written and in some cases “criminalized” police, getting a small rise from Ramirez and Sara Love, the ACLU lobbyist.

Canales sought to humanize the officers he represents.

“On behalf of the 22,000 officers in the state of Maryland, we’re [your] partners,” he said. “We talk about police as if they’re not people. The reality is, they’re your neighbors, they attend your churches, their kids go to your schools. In the course of the conversation, don’t forget that.”

Ramirez, a Prince George’s County Democrat, hesitated when asked why so many of the bills died in the last legislative session. He said that he couldn’t speak for his colleagues in Annapolis but that voting for police reform can contribute to an image of politicians being “soft on crime.”

Coates, the senior pastor of Mt. Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton, asked questions varying from specific ones about police body cameras and the Law Enforcement Officer’s Bill of Rights, to broader ones, such as whether poor, black communities are “over-policed.”

For more information read the full article in The Baltimore Sun.