Police Accountability Panel at #MACoCon Signals Necessary Changes to Reform Legislation

Police accountability process runs into various procedural complications in year two but hope is alive for legislative updates. 

Police accountability reform has been underway since 2021 and the new civilian oversight process has taken shape. Now entering into year two of the process, individuals deeply involved in the process took time to share their considerations for how the process is going. This expert panel, representing every tier of the new process, answered questions and described with great detail some of the successes but also challenges of implementation. A key takeaway was that, on the whole, there is really important work taking place in this process but some legislative refinements are overdue.

All panel members touched on a number of areas of concern that spanned a variety of categories. One distinct consideration of all panelists was the concern regarding a “tolling provision” that previously existed in the Law Enforcement Officer’s Bill of Rights (LEOBR). Essentially, if criminal charges were pending against an officer, administrative charges would follow the conclusion of the criminal case. This avoids the potential that any compelled statements from an administrative investigation do not end up invalidating a criminal trial due to a 5th Amendment violation. This provision no longer exists with the repeal of the LEOBR. However, even if tolling measures are established by each jurisdiction, administrative charges very likely would not have a sufficient window to be proffered in the required timeline of a year and a day.

Another major issue that does not have an obvious legislative fix is whether these entities are able to manage the volume of cases, regardless of tolling, in the set time frame, or even otherwise.  Workload for volunteer administrative charging committees (ACC) might be untenable in some counties. As cases build up and take time for the ACC to conduct their own investigations following the police investigation, more frequent and longer meetings will be required to meet the review deadlines. The time requirement will likely outweigh the commitment potential of volunteers, especially in large jurisdictions. Even extending the deadline might not suffice to sustain these individuals that have a very valuable but extensive training requirement.

Calvert County Police Accountability Board Chair, Wilson Parran, summed up how they are managing the most immediate challenges by reiterating the importance of streamlining the investigation process to bolster public confidence.

“We can not do this without understanding and cooperation with our partners in this process.”

They worked closely with their State’s Attorney and Sheriff’s Office to develop memorandums of understanding to ensure expectations were clear for procedural elements, despite the existing concerns.

While all counties are operational there is still great potential and need for some legislative clarifications to maintain the integrity of the process. To the benefit of all state and local stakeholders, members of the legislature were very engaged for this discussion. Not only was the panel expertly moderated by Delegate Nicole Williams, a prominent member of the House Judiciary Committee but a number of Del. Williams committee peers were in attendance.

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