By Rebecca Snyder, executive director, Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association
Last year, Maryland’s General Assembly passed the groundbreaking Anton’s Law (the Maryland Police Accountability Act of 2021) to bring more transparency to police discipline records by making them available under Maryland’s Public Information Act.
The movement for reform began with the 2018 death of Anton Black, a 19-year-old Black teen who died in police custody after being restrained by three Greensboro police officers in Caroline County on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. He was one of 31 people who died that year through the actions of police, according to the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention.
Black’s case was soon closed by the Maryland State Police and the three officers involved were cleared both criminally and administratively, but his family had questions about the investigation.
Under the state law in effect at the time, Marylanders who filed a complaint of police misconduct could not find out how the department investigated the complaint, or, in many cases, even its outcome. Those complaints were considered part of the “personnel record” of a police officer, and all personnel records were shielded under the Public Information Act.
A wide coalition of advocates worked for several years to get the legislature to pass Anton’s Law in 2021.
Starting Oct. 1, 2021, police internal discipline and complaint records are considered separate from personnel records, so they would be accessible under the Public Information Act. If the records are part of an ongoing investigation, they may still be shielded as “investigatory” and exempt from the Public Information Act.
Other government employee personnel records remain exempt from disclosure.
Rebecca Snyder, executive director, Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association
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