The Maryland state legislature has finished drafting and passing a raft of five different bills that are all being described as “police reform” and sent them to the desk of Governor Larry Hogan. This is a process that’s been dragging on for months, with plenty of controversies involved along the way. But to their credit, as recently as a few weeks ago, the Democratic majority in both chambers had worked with some of the more moderate to liberal Republicans, offering some compromises that looked to have won over at least some bipartisan support. That all apparently changed at the eleventh hour when most of those compromises were removed. Nearly every Republican withdrew their support and now the Governor is looking askance at the bills as well. (CBS Baltimore)
All eyes are now on Gov. Larry Hogan regarding a series of police reform bills now passed through the Maryland General Assembly.
Debating behind partitions, the Maryland Senate on Wednesday passed a series of police reform bills.
“Only when we restore trust and integrity are we going to then be able to have a safer state,” Senator Jill Carter said.
Carter sponsored Anton’s Law, which would make public police disciplinary records.
What seems to have happened is that the original, single bill was chopped up into five separate bills by the state senate and a number of changes were inserted by the Democrats. Those are the bills that were finally passed on party lines by the Democrats.
When the Governor was reached for comment he had obviously been made aware of the last-minute maneuvers. (Emphasis added) “They turned it into five bills which I have not seen,” he said. “We got it last night. There were some really good police reforms in some of the bills. Unfortunately, there was some terrible stuff they kind of mixed together.”
So what was the “terrible stuff” that is putting the Governor off of his feed? There were several items. One was the establishment of a statewide use of force policy. Under the new rules, virtually all use of force when dealing with suspects who resist arrest will be curtailed. Any officer who ends up causing injury or death to a suspect will be eligible to be put on trial and face ten years or more in prison. While that might help detect some bad apples who engage in flagrant abuse and hold them accountable, it will put officers who were using appropriate force to protect themselves and the public at risk.
Another measure would make all officer disciplinary records public. A previous compromise would have only made the past records of officers who are under investigation for possible offenses available. That provision was dropped, so the new proposal would basically turn every cop on the force into a target by identifying them all by name, even if they were cleared of any past offenses.
The legislature also voted to eliminate the state’s police bill of rights, which offers qualified immunity for law enforcement officers and assures them of participation in investigations of alleged misconduct and fair representation during the investigation. Advocates around the country seeking to “abolish the police” have been screaming about qualified immunity for a while now. It seems that Maryland’s Democrats have jumped on that bandwagon.
Hopefully, Larry Hogan will find a way to reject these measures and send the Democrats back to the table. If they can’t work cooperatively with at least some of their Republican colleagues on the worst of these so-called “reforms,” they shouldn’t be allowed to simply jam through anything they want. If they pull this off, the next question they should be asking is if the last cops to quit the force and leave the state would be willing to turn off the lights as they go.