By BRIAN WITTE, Associated Press
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Maryland lawmakers on Saturday announced a group of legislators to address issues concerning police accountability.
The interim workgroup will start meeting this summer and make recommendations for next year’s legislative session.
“Policing in America is broken. While we have taken a number of positive steps in Maryland, we can’t be satisfied until every citizen has confidence in their police department,” said House Speaker Adrienne Jones, who is the first black and female House speaker in Maryland. “As the mother of two sons, accountability in policing is not just philosophical, it is personal.”
Del. Luke Clippinger, a Baltimore Democrat who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, said Maryland has done important work on the issue in the last several years, but it’s not enough.
“We are seeing record levels of crime in Baltimore City, at the same time that the Baltimore Police Department is under a federal consent decree,” Clippinger said. “I am hoping to see recommendations for tangible reform that restores trust and helps communities build real relationships with the law enforcement that serve them.”
Baltimore entered into its consent decree after the 2015 death of Freddie Gray following an injury while in police custody, which caused unrest in the city five years ago.
A measure to improve disclosure of police records passed Clippinger’s committee in the last session, but lawmakers adjourned early due to the coronavirus before the bill could advance further.
Del. Vanessa Atterbeary, a Prince George’s County Democrat, will chair the workgroup.
“The events around the country this week have underscored that we cannot wait another day,” Atterbeary said. “We need structural reform ideas from the community and law enforcement to fix this problem in a collaborative way.”
Protests have been taken place in cities around the country following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Floyd, an African American, died after a white police officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for several minutes even after he stopped moving and pleading for air. The officer was fired from the department and faces criminal charges.
The Maryland panel will review policies and procedures related to the investigations of police misconduct. It also will examine the viability of uniform statewide use of force policies and arrest procedures and review the use of body cameras and the disclosure of camera footage. It also will identify national best practices of independent prosecution of law-enforcement related crimes.
Maryland’s Commission to Restore Trust in Policing is set to complete its work at the end of the year after focusing for two years on reforms to the Baltimore City Police Department after a specialized gun-recovery unit made up of rogue detectives was brought down in a far-reaching federal investigation.
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