Workgroup Hears National Perspectives on Police Reform and Accountability

2020-07-16 22_51_01-Workgroup to Address Police Reform and Accountability in Maryland - YouTubeThe House Police Reform Workgroup was briefed by criminal justice experts on police reform data, legislative actions, and advocacy nationwide. 

The goal of the meeting was for the workgroup members to get a better understanding of what is happening in other states so that the lawmakers could think outside the box of what sort of reforms are feasible here in Maryland.

The briefing included presentations from Amber Widgery, Program Principal, Criminal Justice Program, National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL); Laurie O. Robinson, Professor of Criminology, Law and Society, at George Mason University; Samuel Sinyangwe, Policy Analyst and Data Scientist from Human Rights Data Analysis Group; and Lucy Lang, Director of the Institute for Innovation in Prosecution at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

Widgery provided an overview of recent police reform legislation enacted by state and local governments across the country. Her presentation pulled in part from NCSL’s new tracking database for policing bills and executive orders which tracks legislation and orders that have been introduced since May 25, 2020. Widgery also discussed legislative trends by providing a by the numbers summary of policing legislation that has been passed by states between 2014-2019.

Robinson discussed her experience serving on an Obama era police reform task force. The task force’s mission was to identify best practices on building bridges of trust between law enforcement and communities. It issued a report in 2015 with 52 recommendations for change including establishing a culture of transparency and accountability, building community trust through fair impartial community policing, and ensuring procedural justice for citizens in interactions with the police.

Lang shared information about data tools and officer-involved fatalities toolkits that the Institute for Innovation in Prosecution had developed through a 50 member stakeholder workgroup. Her presentation focused on the prosecutor’s role in investigating and prosecuting police misconduct and police-involved fatalities. She stressed the need for investigations to be conducted by independent third parties, such as an Attorney General or independently established agency, to have jurisdiction over such investigations.

Sinyangwe’s presentation delved into the data on police-involved violence that has been collected over recent years. He also discussed Campaign Zero‘s police reform research and advocacy efforts which is generally split between reducing the power of police and shrinking their role. The former includes action taken to set proper use of force standards and to remove barriers to accountability including those built into the Law Enforcement Bill of Rights Laws (LEOBR) and police union contracts. While the latter includes work to rethink the role of police and look towards alternatives better suited to respond to homelessness, poverty, or behavioral health-based incidents.

The bi-partisan Workgroup on Police Reform and Accountability, chaired by House Judiciary Committee Vice-Chair Vanessa Atterbeary, has been charged by Speaker Adrienne Jones to meet over the summer to prepare legislation for the 2021 General Assembly session.

The meeting was streamed live and a recording may be found on YouTube.

The workgroup is planning to hold a virtual hearing on August 6, 2020, at 1 p.m at which members of the public will be able to testify. Details for testimony sign-ups will be posted on the General Assembly website closer to the date.

For more information:

Meeting Agenda and Materials

Legislative Responses for Policing State Bill Tracking Database (NCSL)

Institute for Innovation in Prosecution (John Jay College)

Campaign Zero

Previous coverage from Conduit Street:

Speaker Announces House Work Group on Police Reform and Accountability