Showing posts with label police unions. Show all posts
Showing posts with label police unions. Show all posts

Saturday, May 22, 2021

POLICE REFORM COMES TO MARYLAND (PART II)

words by Charles Brooks 

Police reform in America is difficult because police unions, elected officials – Democrat and Republican – along with their largely white constituents seeks to maintain a racial order disguised as “law and order”. Opposition to police reform is seen in the public and political support for blue lives matter, and proposed anti-protest legislation across the nation that will clearly pit police officers on the front line against protesters deemed rioters.  We saw this during the seventies when the activist demand for community control over the police was met with the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights or LEOBOR – such as the one passed by Maryland in 1974. Passed into law at a time when politicians and the police, together basked in the spectacle of “law and order” – which meant, get tough on Black folk.

Jonathan Hutto and Rodney Green outlines the activism against police brutality in Social Movements Against Racist Police Brutality and Department of Justice Intervention in Prince George’s County, Maryland.  They point to 2001 Washington Post data revealing between 1990 and 2000, Prince George’s police shot and killed more citizens per officer than any of the 50 largest city and county law enforcement agencies in the country - 84 % Black. Hutto and Green describes activism against police brutality in Prince Georges County, and the critical emergence of The People’s Coalition for Police Accountability (PCPA).  In 2001, PCPA pressured Maryland state legislators to introduce legislation to repeal LEOBOR in the General Assembly. But opposition from the police union, the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) eventually killed the proposed repeal measure in committee. The struggle for police reform in Maryland continued relentlessly in the twenty years afterward.

Throughout the Maryland General Assembly’s recent three-month state legislative session, the opposition became clear as several state legislators – Democrats and Republicans, along with the FOP had their own ideas about what police reform should look like. Throughout the combative session, opposing state legislators prioritized protecting police interests over the interests of the community.

Maryland became the latest state to enact extensive police reform measures only after state legislators successfully overrode Governor Hogan’s veto.  In fact, the most contentious measures during the legislative session were in fact, vetoed by the Republican Governor; repeal of the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights (LEOBOR), the new use of force standard and body cameras. He also vetoed measures to expand public access to records in police disciplinary cases and limit the use of no-knock warrants. 

The new police reform legislation creates a new unit in the attorney general's office to investigate police-involved deaths, prevents law enforcement agencies from buying surplus military equipment, and allows Baltimore City voters to self-determine whether Baltimore City or Maryland should have full control of the Baltimore City Police Department.

The new legislation also requires body cameras to be in use by July 2025; limits no-knock warrants to just between 8 am and 7 pm; a new statewide standard will now be in place outlining when officers can use force with criminal penalties of up to 10 years in prison. The use of force must now be “necessary and proportional to prevent an imminent threat of physical injury" or achieve “a legitimate law enforcement objective.”  Police officers will now be required to intervene thus criminalizing those officers who don’t.

There’s also Anton’s Law - that provides the public to finally gain access to records previously fought to keep confidential under the guise of protecting the police. The public will be able to request disciplinary records and internal affairs complaints made against the police. And despite heavy opposition from Maryland’s FOP, complaints determined to be unsubstantiated, will now be available for public review as well.

The new police reform legislation ensures different policing but also brings into view the road ahead for police reform.  For one, legislation to remove police officers from schools and reallocate funding for needed school resources such as social workers failed. Furthermore, LEOBOR fell short on the question of community control.  It’s the Trial boards who are empowered with the final determination on disciplining acts of police misconduct while the boards’ lone public representative is relegated to a spectator – no say in determining an officer’s guilt.   “While the General Assembly repealed the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights (LEOBR), it failed to implement the most important element of police accountability – community oversight. Community oversight means that there is a community-controlled and operated entity that is external to the police department or state-imposed processes that has power to investigate, adjudicate, and impose discipline,” reads in part, a statement from the Maryland Coalition for Justice and Police Accountability (MCJPA). 

To truly transform policing in America, policing must include community control – where the community has a significant role in police matters, particularly around discipline.  Community control has been the demand made by Black activists since the sixties in response to the same police misconduct and brutality that often led to rebellious uprisings. The notion that the police can effectively investigate and discipline police defeats the very purpose of community control.  As the amplified voices of the community become more engaged with the entities of their communities – be it the police, education or healthcare - the path to self-determination, community control and a more inclusive participatory democracy becomes more visible and within reach.

See Part I of POLICE REFORM COMES TO MARYLAND

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Related Reading:

RETREATING FROM POLICE REFORM IN NYC

Are mandatory minimums the answer in Baltimore City

What really happened to Freddy Gray?


Additional Reading:


List of articles on Black Community Control from The Black Agenda Report