Maryland law enforcement agencies are transitioning to embrace new policies after a series of police reform laws took effect on Oct. 1.
The new legislation includes restrictions on no-knock warrants and the use of military-grade equipment by law enforcement agencies, as well as requirements for the disclosure of police investigation records related to officer-involved deaths.
Another provision, known as “Anton’s law” after the death of Anton Black, aims for greater police accountability by preventing officers with a checkered past from accepting a job at a different department during an ongoing investigation.
The law also establishes a special unit in the Attorney General’s office to investigate all civilian deaths at the hands of police.
The legislation was passed after Democrats in the state’s General Assembly overrode three vetoes from the state’s Republican Governor Larry Hogan.
Sen. Jill Carter, a Baltimore Democrat who helped author the bill, had some strong words about its motivations.
“Policing is a public function and it is only right that disciplinary records are accessible to victims of misconduct and the public. This is a necessary step to creating transparency and accountability. Police have done a deplorable job policing themselves in secret,” she said.
However, Salisbury Police Chief Barbara Duncan said its still too early to tell what the impact of the reforms will yield.
“We are not too far into October at this point and at this point, we’re not really sure what the impact is going to be.”
Duncan also referenced further reforms under the Maryland Police Accountability Act of 2021 that are expected to take effect in July next year. These reforms will bring changes to use of force policies, discipline procedures and the organization of police accountability boards.
Chief Duncan said that in order for the laws to yield positive results, police training must be adjusted, and there must be open communication between accountability boards and law enforcement.
“We’re still going to continue to struggle as a state because we haven’t addressed the underlying issues that demand some change. The structure of these new bodies are confusing at best. They’re mission is not well-defined in my opinion,” Duncan told WMDT 47.
The chief added that she’s still waiting for further guidance from the state level on how to implement some of the requirements.