The package of legislation is expected to go into affect next year.
Frederick, Md (KM) One of the most controversial measures discussed among lawmakers during the recently completed 2021 Maryland General Assembly Session had to do with police reform. Lawmakers approved a package of bill which prohibits expunging and destroying police disciplinary records. It also calls for civilian involvement in police evaluations, bias training and evacuation of officers’ mental and physical health.
“The safety of our communities is at stake. The quality of our law enforcement is at stake,” says Frederick County Delegate Jesse Pippy (R), who says the legislation makes it difficult for police officers to do their jobs.
Another provision would set up use of force standards. “It could lead to the death of a police officer. It could lead more death,” said Pippy. . “We want our law enforcement officers to be our best trained, to be our best and the brightest. But they are put constantly in dangerous situations and they need to be able to act.”
Frederick County Delegate Karen Lewis Young (D) says these reform measures are all about accountability. “Any industry that any of us have worked in has accountability measurements and that was the overall goal of police reform legislation,” she says.
No-knock warrants are also covered in the legislation. Delegate Young says any request for these types of warrants need to be approved by a supervisor and the local state’s attorney before a judge can consider them. “It could only be executed between 8:00 AM and 7:00 PM absent certain circumstances,” she says. “And officers executing the warrants must identify themselves and use body cameras.”
But Delegate Pippy says it could make it difficult for police go after illegal drugs and stolen guns. “They passed a law that basically prohibits law enforcement from applying for a warrant to after drug dealers, to after folks that are dealing in stolen guns, “he says.. “And we got a big problem in Maryland with murder, most of which are done with stolen guns.”
Another complaint about this package of bills is that it could mean more police officers resigning from the force, or retiring early; or young people interested in law enforcement careers being discouraged from applying. “I think that’s unsubstantiated rhetoric,” says Young.
While opposed to many of the provisions of this reform package, Pippy says there are some parts which are good for police. “Helping with education; recruitment to recruit the best and the brightest. There was one thing that dealt with mental health. We want to ensure that our police officers have access to mental health counseling to deal with any issues they may have,” he said. “But the other provisions are so egregious that the overall package is not a good thing for Maryland.”
He hopes the General Assembly will revisit the legislation next year.
The legislation came about following the death last year of George Floyd, an African-American, allegedly at the hands of a White police officer in Minneapolis.
The package was approved by both the House of Delegates and the Senate. Governor Larry Hogan vetoed it. Legislators overrode the veto.
These reforms begin in 2022.
Bu Kevin McManus.