Letter of Advice from Attorney General’s Office Clarifies Police Misconduct Meaning

General Assembly counsel outlines advice on meaning of “police misconduct” in the Maryland Police Accountability Act of 2021.

With police accountability reforms well under way, there have been a handful of linguistic elements from the 2021 enacting legislation that beg the benefit of clarity. One of those questions received an answer last Tuesday from the Office of the Attorney General via a letter of advice.

In a request from Senator Michael A. Jackson, an inquiry was made to the Office of the Counsel to the General Assembly asking whether an officer’s behavior must include all three listed elements under the meaning of “police misconduct” in Public Safety Article, 3-101(g) which reads as follows:

“Police misconduct” means a pattern, a practice, or conduct by a police officer or law enforcement agency that includes:
(1) depriving persons of rights protected by the constitution or laws of the State or the United States;
(2) a violation of a criminal statute; and
(3) a violation of law enforcement agency standards and policies.

In essence, the response from the General Assembly’s counsel was that “and” must be interpreted as “or” when that reading effectuates the obvious intent. The advice goes on to reference a number of court cases and include plain language rational.

Nowhere in the Maryland Police Accountability Act or its legislative history is any indication that the General Assembly intended to replace LEOBR with a sharply curtailed mechanism for police discipline that would apply to criminal misconduct only.

Read the full letter of advice.