Friday, May 21, 2021


words by Charles Brooks

The public display of Floyd’s gruesome death ignited massive protests across the country demanding reduced police budgets along with bans on tear gas, chokeholds, no-knock warrants, and limits on the police use of force. State and local legislators responded to the thousands of demonstrators on the streets with a barrage of their proposals attempting to address police reform.

Since last summer, state legislators in Maryland took notice and followed suit by convening a workgroup  to hammer out legislative proposals to address police reform in Maryland. On the ground, a coalition of 95 organizations – the Maryland Coalition for Justice and Police Accountability (MCJPA) began their grassroot campaign for police reform with demands grounded in racial justice and self-determination. Their demands seek to reverse unaccountable police misconduct with a process more transparent, more democratic and more aligned to the interests of the community, particularly those with Black working-class folk. In fact, three of their demands – if met – can fundamentally transform policing and the lives of Black folk in Maryland.

For one, there’s the demand to fully repeal the Law Enforcement Officers' Bill of Rights (LEOBR); to

bring a “use of force” standard that doesn’t exist in Maryland; and create more transparency to the investigation process around police misconduct that right now, disables the release of vital information.  That’s because the Maryland Public Information Act (MPIA) blocks the release of information relating to police misconduct because they consider complaints part of the “personnel record,” not up for public release. As a result, family members, the community, advocates and activists are left in the dark regarding the progress or even the scope of any investigation.

The Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights is problematic because of special entitled rights that are afforded to police officers when they’re investigated for misconduct allegations. This entitlement of rights are fundamental barriers to any semblance of transparency and accountability. Disciplinary records are expunged. Questioning occurs days after the misconduct occurred. Officers investigating officers. We see this time and time again when we learn about an officer’s history of misconduct with little or no disciplinary action taken.  These repeated episodes raise a simple question asked by many – why are they still employed as police officers? LEOBOR is what keeps them employed. The Coalition demands also include reversing control of the Baltimore City Police Department from the state of Maryland to Baltimore City; and removing police officers from public schools.

The data is stacked with evidence highlighting the need for real and meaningful police reform in Maryland. According to the ACLU-Maryland, Maryland now ranks among the least transparent states regarding police misconduct complaints where even conservative states such as Alabama, Arizona and Georgia have a more transparent disciplinary process than Maryland.  Maryland is one of only nine states in the country without a statewide standard around police “use of force”. And finally, Maryland is one of only three states in the country where the Governor approval is needed to parole those serving life and eligible for parole.

In addition, 109 people were killed by police in Maryland between 2010 and 2014, and 87 killed

since 2015.  Since 2014, statistics were no longer available for SWAT deployments. However, available statistics show between 2010 and 2014, police in Maryland conducted more than 8,000 raids. In the last year of data collection, in 2014 – statistics show 71% of SWAT deployments were considered “forcible entry”.  The statistics also disclose the largest number of SWAT teams were deployed in predominately Black populated counties; Baltimore City saw 230 deployments while Prince George’s County had 418.  

An ACLU-Maryland report on misconduct complaints reveals between 2015 and 2019, there were 13,392 complaints filed against 1,826 Baltimore City police officers and 22,884 use of force incidents in Baltimore.  There’s the mandated report on police settlements outlining the 269 claims paying out $2.6 million – that doesn't include the millions paid out in cases involving the Gun Force Task Force and, Freddie Gray. 

Maryland has the highest Black population in the country with more than 70% of Black prisoners. Once incarcerated, Division of Corrections (DOC) prison laborers earn .90 cents to $2.75 per day and between 17 cents and $1.16 an hour at the Maryland Correctional Enterprises earn  Bear in mind that Maryland spends nearly $8 million a year to pay for prisoner labor while their prisoner labor program earned $52 million from the sale of products made from prison labor, ranging from furniture and flags to stationery and license plates.

Back home, the families are left to deal with the lingering and continuing trauma resulting from police brutality. The stories of the families who suffered loss by the hands of the police provides deep insight into not just their trauma but the trauma felt by their friends and extended community as well.  Their story and testimony tells us their grief is real.  Their loss is real. And their trauma is just as real. Loss of sleep. Loss of appetite.  The up and down ride on the emotional rollercoaster that comes with the ups and downs of anxiety, stress and depression.  

This is the backdrop highlighting the need for community control and police reform when Maryland state legislators began their 2021 legislative session back in January. 


Related Reading:

Retreating from Police Reform in NYC

Are mandatory minimums the answer for Baltimore?

What really happened to Freddy Gray?

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