A supporter of repeal says it’s time for this law to go.
Frederick, Md (KM) A bill to repeal the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights has been introduced in the 2021 Maryland General Assembly. The Bill of Rights gives officers accused of wrongdoing the right to due process before a decision is made on their future with their departments.
“Basically, what is happening now in Annapolis is they’re pushing some bills forward to basically, totally get rid of those due process rights,” says Charlie Snider, the President of the Fraternal Order of Police for Frederick City.
Snider says the due process gives officers a chance to explain what they did, and why they made the decision they did. “If they get rid of this, it will allow chiefs and sheriffs to just make a decision to terminate the officer without any type of hearing or hearing from the officer, period, in reference to a certain situation,” he says.
But Walter Olson, a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute, says this law should be repealed. “It puts too many barriers in the way of police department that want to root out misconduct or under performing officers,” he said.
As an example, Olson says the law provides for a five-day waiting period for officer who are accused of wrongdoing to testify. “This no good reason to give five days before an officer has to begin answering questions about possible misconduct,” he says. “All that does is make the testimony less accurate, and make it more likely that there is some chance to cover up something that was done wrong.”
Even if this law is repealed, Olson says officers will still have civil service protections similar to other local government employees such as librarians and highway workers. “For police who are represented in collective bargaining, very often the union has negotiated all sorts of protection beyond what the librarian may get, beyond what the highway worker might get. And those wouldn’t go away,” he says.
Olson says police officers should be held accountable. “What police do is valuable. It’s irreplaceable. But that doesn’t mean that their accountability should be less. If anything, it means their accountability should be more,” he said.
Snider said he too believes police officers should be held accountable. “I, as FOP President, want to hold people accountable and make them do the right thing and handle things the way they should handle them in any police matter that happens. So we want to get rid of those people that are bad apples,” he says.
The bill to do away with the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights is sponsored by Delegate Gabriel Acevero of Montgomery County. He says the repeal of this law would allow for greater civilian oversight of police departments.
The Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights was enacted in Maryland in 1974.
By Kevin McManus