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Maryland Senate Eliminates Police Officer Bill Of Rights, Passes 9 Reform Bills

Annapolis, MD – The Maryland Senate on Wednesday passed nine pieces of police reform legislation which included controversial changes to the Law Enforcement Officer Bill of Rights, mandated bodycams, and made it a crime for an officer not to intervene and report misconduct by another officer.

The most controversial of the bills passed by the Senate created “Anton’s Law” which will give the public access to police disciplinary records, the Capitol Gazette reported.

The law will allow the public to request copies of internal affairs complaints and individual officer’s disciplinary records that are currently protected under Maryland’s Public Information Act.

Supporters said that the secrecy that surrounded the police complaint process has undermined public faith and trust because there was no way to know if law enforcement agencies were properly policing their own officers, the Capital Gazette reported.

Pro-police lawmakers had argued against releasing unfounded or unproved allegations against officers because doing so would unfairly tarnish reputations and embarrass officers’ families.

But the bill passed the Senate by a vote of 29 to 18 on March 3, the Capital Gazette reported.

All nine bills passed by wide margins, and six of the bills passed with bipartisan unanimous consent, including a measure to have the state’s attorney’s office automatically investigate every officer-involved death, WAMU reported.

One of the bills blocked police departments from getting military-grade equipment, including the grenade launchers that are currently used by some departments to deploy crowd-control chemicals.

Activists claimed a huge victory after Maryland senators voted 33 to 14 to do away with the Maryland Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights that provides job protections and a broad set of due process rights for officers who have been accused of misconduct, the Capital Gazette reported.

The new legislation replaced it with a disciplinary process that would allow a civilian-majority board to decide complaints against officers, a sticking point for bipartisan support because of disagreements over how to replace the current disciplinary process.

The proposed bill eliminated the five-day wait period before internal affairs investigators may question an accused officer and eliminated the current trial boards made up of fellow officers and replaced them with review panels made up mostly of civilians who will determine the officer’s fate, according to the Capital Gazette.

The new law would also grant chiefs the ability to immediately discipline officers who have been criminally convicted without the currently-established due process of internal investigations and hearings.

A bill that introduced new criminal charges for police brutality passed by a vote of 35 to 12, the Capital Gazette reported.

Under that law, officers who used excessive force to kill or seriously injure a suspect would face up to 10 years in prison.

And any officer who saw another officer using excessive force but failed to intervene to stop them would face the same penalty, the Capital Gazette reported.

The failure to render first aid to suspects wounded by police would also carry criminal sanctions under that bill.

It would give the Maryland Police Standards and Training Commission the power strip officers of their law enforcement certification and ban them from the entire profession if they’re convicted of excessive force, the Capital Gazette reported.

The legislation outlined a single use-of-force standard that applies for every agency in the state, established a legal duty for officers to report suspected misconduct, and created whistleblower protections for those officers.

The legislation will move to the Maryland House of Delegates where it is likely to face more pushback than it did in the more heavily-controlled state Senate.

Written by
Sandy Malone

Managing Editor - Twitter/@SandyMalone_ - Prior to joining The Police Tribune, Sandy wrote the Politics.Net column for the Wall Street Journal and was managing editor of Campaigns & Elections magazine. More recently, she was an internationally-syndicated columnist for Conde Nast (BRIDES), The Huffington Post, and Monsters and Critics. Sandy is married to a retired police captain and former SWAT commander.

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Written by Sandy Malone


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