Two New Boards Your County Will Need, After 2021 Police Reforms

2021 police reform legislation changed many laws regarding use of force, police training, and accountability — but amidst that all-encompassing bill are two provisions requiring counties to create new structures to promote clearer processes for officer discipline.

The far-reaching police reform bill, Speaker Jones’s HB 670, has become law following a veto override in the waning days of the 2021 session. The much-discussed bill is the cornerstone of a major legislative focus this year — and its provisions take effect July 1 of 2022.

With one year to fully implement the bill, we’ll write here about two new administrative bodies required by the bill, and their intended scope and functions.

Police Accountability Board

The section of the bill creating each county’s Accountability Board begins on page 31 of the enrolled bill. From the bill text:

Two matters with the Accountability Board are not completely clear, but can be inferred from a plain reading:

-It is a county-level Board, but seems to have a role in overseeing “law enforcement agencies” within the county — that would appear to include municipal police departments, and potentially even special units like those stationed on college campuses.

-It has a role in “complaints of police misconduct” but the bill does not specify many details beyond that statement – so it may be up to each county what role the Board takes in any investigation or evaluation of claims that it receives in this role.

As for it constitution:

The county governing body is charged with assembling and appointing the Board itself, and the county will be obligated to support its functions. The new state law does not specify the full realm for the Board and its duties or staffing, so that appears to be a local decision.

Administrative Charging Committee

The new law governing the Charging Committee begins on page 33 of the enrolled bill:

The constitution of the Charging Committee was much debated as the bill progressed through the legislative process, which is partially evident by amendments formally adopted and then altered, but even those formal changes belie the many alternatives offered as proposals, failed amendments, and compromises during the bill’s robust deliberations.

The Charging Committee has a more clearly defined role in the follow-up to an alleged incident of police misconduct:

The Charging Committee’s recommendations form a framework for, but not a complete limitation upon, the Chief’s (or Sheriff’s) final disciplinary decision:

For more details on HB 670, and its multiple provisions, review the thorough materials provided by the General Assembly’s staff:

Bill Information

Fiscal and Policy Note (Revised)

Racial and Equity Impact note – 2021 Maryland Police Reform Proposals

Michael Sanderson

Executive Director Maryland Association of Counties