Maryland General Assembly comes through with police reform

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By Deborah Bailey
Special to the AFRO

(Updated 04/12/2021) Police reform in Maryland is now the law of the land, thanks to the Maryland General Assembly’s quick action, April 10, to overturn vetoes by Governor Larry Hogan on key measures of the Maryland Police Accountability Act and a related law enforcement measure changing parole requirements for juveniles.   

Hogan vetoed three measures April 8 and 9 stating in his message that the legislative measures would “further erode police morale, community relationships and public confidence.”

By Saturday evening, the General Assembly had overturned Hogan’s vetoes on key provisions in the Police Accountability Act and related law enforcement repeal including: 

  • HB 670 establishing a new disciplinary procedure for police officers involving citizens and superseding the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights, one of the first legislative measures originally passed to protect police in the nation. the first pro-police Bill of Rights passed in the nation.
  • SB 71 requiring  mandatory statewide us of body cameras, limits on no-knock search warrants, implements a state-wide use of force policy and requires officers to be trained in conflict de-escalation.
  • SB 178 Changes the Maryland Public Information Act to allow public review of certain officer misconduct records. Named Anton’s Law after Anton Black, 19-year old who died in police custody in 2018 on the Eastern Shore. 
  • SB0494 The Juvenile Restoration Act, prohibiting the Maryland from imposing life without parole sentences to juveniles.

Legislators immediately responded to the vetoes and the need for passage of the police reform measures. 

“This is not anti-police legislation; this is equality and fairness legislation,” posted Delegate Vanessa Atterbeary (D-13 Howard County) 

 “Our override was as swift as his veto,” tweeted Senator Charles Sydnor (D-Baltimore County) -on Saturday. 

“The passage of these comprehensive bills will have a significant impact on the lives of Maryland residents, who have long called for accountability and tangible changes to harmful policing practices across the state. With the killings of Freddie Gray, Korryn Gaines, Anton Black, and others, Marylanders have had to grapple with the legacy of police violence and misconduct for far too long,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, president and direct counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, in a statement.

“Baltimoreans, too, have suffered and been subject to violent policing practices and discrimination that have long engendered mistrust between the community and the BPD. Baltimore advocates and community members have passionately pushed for police accountability measures and highlighted the collective urgency for public safety strategies that build community trust for many years. 

Ifill said the new laws are a “victory steeped in the coordinated efforts of community members and advocates who have worked for police accountability, transparency, and justice. This landmark package of bills required hard-fought advocacy and its removal of a number of impediments to police accountability has come after over a decade of rallying for a just public safety system.”

 The General Assembly is set to wrap up the 2021 legislative session on Monday April 12.