When Maryland’s House of Delegates convenes for the 442nd legislative session next month, lawmakers will be asked to consider voting on a list of police reforms, including the repeal of the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights (LEOBR). Originally passed in 1974, LEOBR defines the enhanced due process rights afforded to police officers when they are subject to internal investigations and disciplinary proceedings. The provision has come under intense public scrutiny this year.
Maryland House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones created a bipartisan legislative work group to review LEOBR and other issues pertaining to police conduct. In late October, the group voted to recommend repealing the enhanced due process protections in a report set to be presented to the House of Delegates for its next legislation session.
“What we’re continuing to hear from impacted communities … is that LEOBR is an impediment to the kind of transparency and accountability that communities are calling for,” Delegate Gabriel Acevero told Delmarva Now.
Also contained within the report are calls for all police departments throughout the state to limit the use of force by officers to only circumstances when it’s deemed objectively reasonable, as well as to ban chokeholds and no-knock warrants, except as a last resort. Additionally, it asks agencies to create de-escalation policies.
The group didn’t just focus on disciplinary and tactical concerns. It suggests lawmakers mandate all departments utilize body cameras by 2025 and recommends establishing a college scholarship initiative for young individuals interested in law enforcement careers, modeled after the military ROTC program.
In an effort to educate lawmakers about the split-second decision-making police work requires, the Maryland Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) invited all 188 members of the General Assembly to partake in a simulated training session before they vote on reforms. Legislators who accepted the offer faced a variety of scenarios: a confrontation with a suicidal individual, a hostage situation and an erratic man brandishing a knife in a public park.
“We understand the climate and tone nationally on police reform, and we appreciate and respect it. We welcome change, but we want sensible change,” Maryland FOP President Clyde Boatwright told The Washington Post. “We don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater, as the saying goes.”
If you live or work in Maryland, write to House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones or your local delegate and let your voice be heard. The new legislative session convenes on January 13.
As seen in the December 2020 issue of American Police Beat magazine.
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