• Stephen Buckingham

Police Accountability Bills Seek to Bring Real Change

As we have now passed the halfway mark in the General Assembly session, some of the most important legislation under consideration is making its way from committees to the House and Senate floors. Among these are bills aimed at addressing the serious problems with policing that brought people across the nation and the world into the streets in protest. Since law enforcement is largely a state and local matter, this means that legislation before the State Legislature is the way to achieve real change. Both chambers conducted hearings and workgroups last summer, and multiple bills have been filed in 2021, forty-five of which we have been tracking and five of which we have been actively supporting.

Last Friday, the Judicial Proceedings Committee reported eight bills to the Senate floor with amendments to each (available at: https://tinyurl.com/y8nrmyle). This week, the committee amendments will be debated and voted upon, in addition to any new amendments from the Senate floor. Each of these bills has been renamed the “Maryland Police Accountability Act of 2021” followed by a specific topic. These include:

SB 71 – Body–Worn Cameras SB 74 – Employee Assistance Programs and Early Intervention Programs SB 178 – Personnel Records - Investigations of Law Enforcement Officers (Anton's Law) SB 419 – Search Warrants SB 599 – Surplus Military Equipment SB 600 – Office of the State Prosecutor - Investigation and Prosecution of Deaths Caused by Police Officers SB 626 – Law Enforcement Officers - Use of Force, Reporting, and Whistleblower Protection SB 627 – Law Enforcement Officers' Bill of Rights - Repeal and Procedures for Discipline

Our analysis of these bills and their amendments leads us to believe that they will make a significant difference in how policing is done in Maryland, as long as they are not weakened by further amendment. We are asking our members to contact their Senators asking them to resist weakening amendments and vote in favor of the bills reported by Judicial Proceedings. Please Click Here for our analysis of the Senate bills.

Meanwhile, the House Judiciary Committee is in the final stages of voting on amendments to HB 670, an omnibus police reform bill that contains most of the provisions in the Senate bills. We will keep you apprised when Judiciary is ready to report out its bills on police accountability.

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