Maryland is moving ahead with their own version of “police reform” in preparation for the return of the legislature in January. While some of the measures under consideration will sound familiar and similar to steps being taken in other parts of the country, one of the steps recently endorsed by a legislative working group is a bit more blunt, to put it mildly. Maryland has long had a “bill of rights” for police officers (Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights, or LEOBR), similar to many other states. But the working group wants the state assembly to scrap it entirely. (Baltimore Sun)
The recommendation is one of several made Thursday by a House of Delegates work group and could form the basis of legislation that the General Assembly would consider when lawmakers return in January to Annapolis.
Some lawmakers and activists have homed in on the law for years as problematic, but efforts to repeal it have fallen short.
Thursday’s move appeared to be the first time a group of Maryland lawmakers endorsed repealing the law. The law spells out the disciplinary process for police, including affording officers accused of misconduct a five-day window before they must speak with investigators.
Anyone familiar with the political landscape in Maryland won’t be surprised to learn that the working group in question was composed of ten Democrats and four Republicans. Nine of the Democrats voted to scrap the LEOBR while all four Republicans and one Democrat (who used to be a sheriff) opposed the measure.
You can read the entire LEOBR here. Most of it is pretty basic, assuring officers the right to engage in political activity, to have secondary employment and to be free from retaliation by their superiors for exercising their rights. It also sets forth the rules for how investigations into potential misconduct by officers are conducted, including their rights to representation and reasonable interrogation conditions.
For the most part, there’s nothing terribly remarkable in Maryland’s LEOBR, though I suppose there are a couple of items that could use a fresh look. The linked article mentions one of these, specifically the five-day grace period given to officers after they’re accused of misconduct before they have to speak to investigators. While that provision no doubt allows them time to work on and prepare their defense, it does project the impression that the police may be involved in some sort of coverup. It’s also more than most any civilian suspect is given, considering they can be questioned by the police as soon as they’re brought to the station, provide an attorney is present if requested.
So the approach described by the five group members who voted against this proposal sounds like the better option. They aren’t saying that the LEOBR has to stay exactly the same as it is now. They’re willing to consider individual modifications to the legislation if such are required. They just don’t want to throw out the entire package. Sadly, most of the Democrats appear to disagree. Good luck with your retention efforts in Maryland law enforcement if this plan and others like it are pushed through. Baltimore, along with the rest of the state, is already losing cops at an alarming rate. Treating them this way won’t be likely to stem the tide.