29 April 2015

And Maryland has Among the Worst "Police Protection" Laws in the Nation

A package of police reform bills that Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan is scheduled to sign into law today, in part as a response to the death of 25-year-old Baltimore resident Freddie Gray, was weakened under political pressure from Maryland police unions, a major force in state politics.

The bills will allow police to wear body cameras, increase the liability cap for lawsuits against government employees, and encourage the state to collect more data on police behavior.

But more substantial reforms, including legislation to add a civilian review process and to have state prosecutors investigate all killings by police, were shot down during a legislative hearing in Annapolis earlier this year.

So, despite the new measures, procedures for prosecuting police misconduct in Maryland will remain the same.

A recent report from the ACLU of Maryland found that at least 109 people died in police encounters in Maryland from 2010 to 2014.

Freddie Gray’s death — which came after his spinal cord was severed when he was in police custody — has become the latest national symbol of brutal policing in African-American communities, and has called particular attention to the poor relations between police and residents in Baltimore. Gray’s funeral sparked riots in Baltimore last night.


Maryland’s Law Enforcement Officer Bill of Rights, one of the strongest such statutes in the nation, is a considerable barrier to police reform. The LEOBR, enacted in 1974, shields officers from oversight by establishing a narrow standard for reviewing police misconduct and limiting the ability of victims to press charges. Current LEOBR law states that officers may not be questioned by their superiors for 10 days following an incident. And once an internal investigation is underway, disciplinary action can only happen after a recommendation by a hearing board comprised of the officer’s colleagues.


Though emotional witnesses testified about incidents of police violence and racism, legislators remained skeptical.

“I left Missouri 29 years ago. I live in Maryland now,” said Del. Deborah Rey, a member of the House Judiciary Committee. Rey questioned the need for police reform bills because the sponsors cited abuses in “Ferguson, Missouri, not Maryland.”

When a witnesss interjected to say that the failure to prosecute Ferguson police officers was a perfect example of the problems surrounding police oversight, Rey cut him off. “We’re not going to adjudicate Ferguson,” she said.
Deligate Ray, perhaps we should adjudicate Baltimore?

Unfortunately, until some bit of police excess creates riots, there is simply no political will to make police accountable to the laws that they are charged with enforcing.


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