State Lawmakers Contemplate Tightening Laws Relating to Police Use of Deadly Force

The state’s workgroup of legislators charged with looking at public safety and policing issues will be contemplating tightening laws related to the police use of deadly force. Maryland is one of nine states which does not have a law on police use of deadly force, but rather defers to federal law and local police department guidelines. As reported in The Baltimore Sun:

The Supreme Court has already established that officers may use a reasonable amount of force to overcome a threat of serious injury or death to themselves or other people — even if that threat is posed by a fleeing suspect.”It’s pretty open-ended,” said David A. Harris, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh who has studied police misconduct. “But it’s law nonetheless, and it’s law in all 50 states.”

States cannot pass laws that are less restrictive, he said, but they can pass laws that are more restrictive.

The panel, which met last week for the first time, is planning several months of meetings. Del. Curt Anderson, Pugh’s co-chair, said members will look at why use-of-force guidelines vary around the state.

“There seem to be a hodgepodge of expectations of citizens on what to expect from one jurisdiction to another,” the Baltimore Democrat said. “If you’re living in the state of Maryland, there ought to be some consistency.”

Others agreed.

“It makes sense that there should be a uniform state standard on this rather than delegating it to local police,” said Sen. Jamie Raskin, a member of the task force and a professor of constitutional law at American University.

Pugh said the panel will review the Amnesty report, but also plans to talk about existing use-of-force policies with police agencies — which legislators do not wish to further alienate.

“Let’s not make [any new standard] so restrictive that people feel they can’t do their jobs,” she said. “We want police in our communities, but we want them to respect our communities.”

The work group on Public Safety and Policing held its meeting Tuesday, June 23 at 1pm in the House Judiciary Committee Hearing Room. The meeting was scheduled to focus on recruitment and hiring practices for law enforcement.

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