Public Safety and Policing Work Group Tackles LEOBR

Maryland’s Law Enforcement Officer’s Bill of Rights (LEOBR) was the principal subject of Monday’s Public Safety and Policing Work Group meeting.

The meeting commenced with a presentation from Karen J. Kruger, General Counsel for the Maryland Chiefs Association and Maryland Sheriffs’ Association, on the history and framework of the LEOBR which covers how internal investigations on an officer are conducted and the procedures that must be followed before discipline can be imposed. Maryland is one of nine states to have an LEOBR and was the first to enact an LEOBR in 1974.

The presentation was followed by panels of speakers including representatives from the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), CASA de Maryland, The Chiefs of Police Association, The Sheriffs Association, local law enforcement, and attorneys, with their thoughts on if and how the LEOBR should be changed or retained.

Much focus was on two provisions of the LEOBR: A rule that prevents an officer accused of misconduct from being interrogated for 10 days while the officer finds representation; and a rule that requires brutality claims to be filed within 90 days. Additional issues included opening trial boards to the public and finding a role for civilians in the adjudication of police investigations.

As reported in The Baltimore Sun:

Representatives of their superiors, the state’s police chiefs and sheriffs, testified that the 40-year-old law is in need of revision and signaled that they are sympathetic to some of the changes suggested by such groups as the NAACP and ACLU of Maryland.

Among those revisions is cutting the 10-day period in which an officer suspected of misconduct has to retain a lawyer before they must submit to a departmental disciplinary interrogation. Advocates say the officers don’t need nearly that long to find counsel and say the 10-day rule makes it easier for police to collude on a cover story. FOP representatives contended that collusion simply doesn’t occur and denied any need to change the rule.

The police chiefs and sheriffs staked out a middle ground. Their witnesses said the rule doesn’t impede them significantly because their internal investigators seldom want to interrogate suspected cases until they have thoroughly investigated the case. But they signaled that they’re willing to see a change if it allays public suspicions about the process.

As previously reported on Conduit Street, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller and House Speaker Michael. E. Busch formed the work group, co-chaired by Senator Catherine E. Pugh and Delegate Curt Anderson, to study issues including officer training, hiring practices, community relations and accountability.  The bipartisan group is made up of a 10 senators and 10 delegates from across the state.

The next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, September 22.

Related Coverage:

Activists Want Changes to Police Bill of Rights (The Frederick News-Post)

After Baltimore Riots, Changes to Police ‘Bill of Rights’ Sought (The Washington Post)

Maryland Police Union Officials Oppose Change to Rights Law (The Baltimore Sun)

Public Safety and Policing Work Group Holds Town Hall Meeting (Conduit Street)