Julio Cortez / AP
Annapolis, Maryland (Associated Press) – Maryland lawmakers voted Saturday to revoke Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto of three far-reaching police reform measures that supporters say are necessary to increase accountability and restore public confidence.
One measure eliminates job protections in disciplinary police actions that critics say hamper accountability. Maryland approved the nation’s first law enforcement officers’ rights act in 1974, and about 20 states have adopted similar laws setting out due process procedures for investigating police misconduct. Maryland is the first to repeal the law, replacing it with new procedures that give civilians a role in police discipline.
The Democratic-controlled General Assembly has been working on reforms for months, following nationwide protests against racial injustice that were fueled by police with the death of George Floyd in Minnesota nearly a year ago.
“Last year, I attended and participated in several demonstrations of people calling for change – young and old, people of all races and walks of life,” said Senator Charles Sidnor, a Democrat who sponsored one of the proceedings. “With so many situations before our eyes, we can no longer deny what we see, and I thank my colleagues for believing their eyes and listening to the majority of Marylanders.”
Opponents said the measures went too far. The package includes provisions to increase the limit of civil liability in lawsuits involving the police from $ 400,000 to $ 890,000. An officer convicted of causing serious injury or death through excessive force will face 10 years in prison.
Republican Senator Robert Casselly described the legislation as “anti-cop.”
“It allows a hindsight review of people sitting in comfortable chairs to judge people who have made fractions of a second decisions in volatile situations,” said Cassili, when the officer fears for his or her life and the lives of others.
Hogan also vetoed the legislation with the new statewide use of force policy and mandatory use of body cameras statewide by July 2025.
Another measure that was rejected would expand public access to records in police disciplinary cases and limit the use of non-hitting orders. Under the bill, police can only use non-strike orders between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m., except in emergency situations.
In his veto letter, Hogan wrote that he believed the measures “will further erode police morale, community relations, and public trust.”
“It will inflict significant damage on recruitment and retention of police, posing significant public safety risks throughout our state,” Hogan wrote.
But Senator Jill Carter, a Democrat from Baltimore, said that erosion of public confidence occurs when nothing is done after residents file complaints against the police, who “can then retaliate against the complaint knowing full well that there will be no transparency. There will be public disclosures and there will be no repercussions. “
“It’s a very important step in the right direction,” said Carter, who sponsored the bill to increase public access to disciplinary police records.
The procedure is named after Anton Black, a 19-year-old African American who died in police custody in 2018 in a rural town on Maryland’s east coast.
Maryland has suffered from police accountability problems in recent years. The Baltimore Police Department entered into a federal approval decree after Freddie Gray suffered a broken neck while in police custody and died, sparking unrest in the city in 2015. Lawmakers approved some police reforms the following year, but critics said they weren’t enough.
Hogan wrote that two measures would go into effect without his signature.
One of them will establish a unit in the attorney general’s office to investigate police-related deaths and prevent law enforcement from purchasing surplus military equipment. The other will enable Baltimore voters to decide whether the state’s largest city should take full control of the state’s police department.
Separately, the legislature on Saturday overruled Hogan’s veto against a bill banning life in prison without the possibility of juvenile parole.