Members of the House Workgroup on Police Reform and Accountability voted on a number of recommendations for the 2021 session while holding some recommendations for discussion during their final meeting.
Delegate Vanessa Atterbeary, Chair of the Workgroup and Vice-Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, had the group jump right into the work of voting on a number of recommendations for reform that have been raised and discussed over the past few months of meetings.
The workgroup discussed and voted on more than a handful of recommendations, held voting on a couple of recommendations, and left voting on one of the potentially more controversial and detailed recommendations for the next meeting.
The workgroup voted to move forward on items for reform that can be generally summarized as:
- Requiring all police departments to utilize body cameras by January 1, 2025
- Requiring reporting on the implementation and use of body cameras
- Requiring a statewide use of force standard
- Prohibiting collective bargaining of disciplinary actions
- Requiring mental health screenings and assessments prior to hiring and periodic assessments by a psychiatrist or psychologist
- Ensuring that prior marijuana use does not disqualify a police officer candidate from the job
- Transfer the Baltimore City Police Department from the State and back to the City of Baltimore
- Creating a study to determine what types of calls for help can go to an entity other than the police
- Requiring period physical assessments of police officers
- Offering a college scholarship to students interested in becoming police officers to help with recruitment and retention
- Requiring the development of implicit bias testing and training, requiring all departments to use implicit bias testing in hiring, and requiring all officers to complete periodic implicit bias training.
A number of these recommendations generated significant discussion over how to flesh them out with more detail and what additional factors need to be considered. For example, while the workgroup voted to require a statewide use of force standard, they will discuss precisely what will be included in that standard at the next meeting.
The workgroup decided to hold voting on a recommendation to require independent investigation of an officer-involved shooting that results in death and the independent prosecution of an officer-involved shooting that results in death. Debate on these recommendations centered on who should be in charge of the independent investigation and independent prosecution, whether there should be concurrent jurisdiction, and what the scope of incidents that should trigger such investigations (i.e. severe bodily harm rather than shooting death).
Finally, the Chair noted discussion and voting on a recommendation regarding the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights would be held until the next meeting.
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 final meeting of the workgroup is scheduled to be held on Thursday, October 15.
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