By Diane Bernard, Maryland News Connection
ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Maryland is receiving national praise as the first state in the nation to repeal its police bill of rights and enact other police accountability measures, but a coalition of criminal-justice reform groups says the moves don’t go far enough to curb police misconduct.
At the ACLU of Maryland, public-policy advocate Yanet Amanuel said the new measures – including restrictions on use of force and no-knock warrants and greater transparency in police offenses – are positive steps. However, lawmakers failed to include independent community oversight, which Amanuel said she thinks is the most important element of police accountability.
“The bill allows for civilian participation in an internal process,” she said, “but it is not a separate process from the police department that is community controlled and truly accountable to the community.”
Gov. Larry Hogan had vetoed the bills — Senate Bill 71, SB 178 and House Bill 670 — but the Democrat-controlled state Senate and House overrode the veto. Hogan said he opposed the bills because they would erode police morale and pose significant risks to public safety.
Amanuel said the new reforms did not take away trial boards, which can overturn disciplinary decisions by civilian charging committees. The coalition also was also hoping to pass a bill to remove school resource officers. She cited a recent case in which officers were called about a kindergartener who got into a fight.
“We have children being punished just for being children,” she said. “What we saw a couple weeks ago in Montgomery County is just another example of that and how a child, a five-year-old child, will be put in handcuffs for simply doing things that children do.”
In the 2018-2019 school year, about 3,100 Maryland students were arrested and about 80% of those arrests were by school resource officers, according to the Maryland Department of Education.