ACLU Calls for Police Discipline Reforms in MD

The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland has called for reforms to Maryland laws governing police discipline, in the wake of high-profile related incidents in Baltimore and across the country. Their advocacy seems likely to fit into the General Assembly’s agenda for the 2016 session, even while a legislative work group is convening to review related issues.

The group’s online petition levies various criticisms of current Maryland laws:

Demand police accountability in Maryland

Maryland and the nation are grappling with how to restore trust that law enforcement officers will treat all the people they serve fairly and equally, and that the officers can be and will be held accountable when they do not. In Maryland, one critical component has to be reform of the state’s Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights (LEOBR).

Enacted in 1974, Maryland’s LEOBR is one of the most extreme such laws in the country. Changes are needed to bring the statute in line with what is granted to public employees generally and what is granted in other states to their police:

  1. LEOBR should allow for civilian review. The law needs to be changed to allow local governments to establish meaningful civilian review of the internal disciplinary process.
  2. LEOBR should allow for effective discipline, not create barriers. Currently, discipline may not be imposed unless recommended by a hearing board. The hearing board can only be composed of sworn law enforcement officers, unless the police union agrees to a different plan.
  3. LEOBR should encourage effective investigation. Currently, LEOBR prevents investigators from interrogating an officer accused or suspected of misconduct for 10 days after notifying the officer that an investigation has begun. And departments have no obligation to even investigate brutality allegations that are filed more than 90 days after the incident.

The group summarizes the petition with a call for action by its signators:

I support reform of Maryland’s Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights. LEOBR needs to ensure that police officers are held accountable to the communities they serve and that meaningful civilian review is possible when police officers are investigated for misconduct.

Additional information about Maryland’s Public Safety and Policing Work Group may be found on the General Assembly’s website and the Maryland Manual On-line.

Michael Sanderson

Executive Director Maryland Association of Counties