This week Maryland took a bold and essential step toward meaningful police reform. The Maryland legislature overrode the Republican governor’s veto and adopted landmark legislation that will set new rules regarding the use of force, establish new investigative procedures, and apply robust disciplinary outcomes to police officers who violate these rules.
The new law will also give civilians a role in police discipline, restrict no-knock warrants, raise the bar for the use of force, mandate body-worn cameras, and allow some cases of police wrongdoing to be open to the public for review. Under this statute, an officer found guilty of excessive force could face up to 10 years in prison. In a statement provided to the Washington Post, House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County) said, “Maryland is leading the nation in transforming our broken policing system . . . I am proud to lead the House in overriding the governor’s veto and showing the nation exactly where we stand as a state.”
Adopting this bold and long overdue legislation is one of several actions taken by the Maryland state legislature. The Maryland General Assembly has also passed a police reform bill that will return the Baltimore Police Department to local control for the first time since 1860. Now the Baltimore City voters will vote on accepting this control in either 2022 or 2024. In October, the state moved to shift police-involved fatality investigations over to an independent unit in the State Attorney General’s office. It also banned police departments from acquiring military surplus equipment.
The Los Angeles Urban League joins civil rights advocates across the nation in applauding these measures as a welcome first step in reforming police policy and enacting meaningful, systemic police reforms. While there is much more still to be done before we can call our policing system fair and just, we hope that this will serve as a rallying point for other states like our own to push forward on reform.
America can no longer pretend that these atrocities simply do not exist. America can no longer merely turn a blind eye to the endless stream of network news and social media that has been documenting the facts that the Black Lives Matter Movement – The Civil Rights Movement of this generation – forced all of America to see.
The events of the past week and year continue to serve as painful demonstrations of the need for change in our policing and judicial system. We are saddened and outraged by the needless and tragic police killings of Daunte Wright and Adam Toledo, and we applaud the Maryland legislature as they move toward a more just and effective system.
We must not forget the power of our voice and our collective ability to create cultural and political change. The Los Angeles Urban League will continue to work with our state, county, and local leaders to drive toward the change that we seek so that a routine traffic stop, walk in the neighborhood, or a trip to the grocery store will not result in tragedy.