The House Police Reform and Accountability Workgroup heard testimony from public interest advocates and members of the public on a variety of police reform topics and experiences.
The panel of public interest advocates included presentations by Willie Flowers
President of the Maryland State Conference NAACP; Kristina Roth, Senior Advocate in the Criminal Justice Program of Amnesty International USA; Monisha Cherayil an attorney from the Public Justice Center; David Rocah, Senior Staff Attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland; and Dayvon Love, Director of Public Policy for the Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle.
Flowers outlined five changes the NAACP wants: (1) allowing investigations for all police misconduct to be available under the Maryland Public Information Act, (2) establishing statutory limits on use of police force, (3) repealing the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights, (4) giving Baltimore City the ability to govern the Baltimore City Police Department, and (5) taking law enforcement out of schools.
Roth focused on police use of force by stressing that Maryland needs a statewide statutory use of force law — local policy and training alone or not enough. In detailing the history of police use of force laws she noted that Maryland is one of nine states (MA, MI, OH, SC, VA, WV WI, WY) and the District of Columbia that does not have a state law and instead defaults to the national standard.
Cherayil delved into the issues of police officers in schools. She walked everyone through examples of how kids in schools are policed and arrested sharing that last year there were 3,100 arrests of students in schools and 70% of those were for fights without weapons, disruption, small time theft, trespassing. She advocated for removing officers from schools and reinvesting those resources into counselors, mental health professionals and others that can provide children with support.
Rocah called for a repeal of the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights and reform of the Maryland Public Information Act. He noted that the majority of states do not have such a bill of rights and that without it officers still have the constitutional protections of due process which all public employees are entitled to. In regards to the Public Information Act, he advocated for full transparency over disciplinary records. Another area in which Maryland falls in the minority of states with very restrictive access.
Love tied together the previous presentations with an appeal to legislators to change the framework by which they view reform and accountability. He argued the framework should be centered on community control and oversight rather than community and police relations. This framework would provide the community with information and mechanisms to keep police accountable and discipline officers that abuse the community.
A total of 100 people signed up to testify for the public comment period, which was scheduled for 2:30 pm – 6:30 pm. Public Testimony was focused on issues involving investigations of police misconduct, including investigations under Maryland’s Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights statute; establishing a uniform statewide use of force and arrest policy for police officers; the use of body cameras and disclosure of body camera footage; and the independent prosecution of law enforcement related crimes.
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.
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