Policing Bills

On Wednesday evening the legislature sent to the Governor five bills to reform the way policing is done in Maryland. By Friday afternoon he had vetoed three and and indicated he will let the other two go into effect without his signature. By Saturday afternoon the legislature had overridden his vetoes.


HB 670 - Maryland Police Accountability Act of 2021 - Police Discipline and Law Enforcement Programs and Procedures. The Speaker's bill is a comprehensive approach to policing. It overhauls the police disciplinary process by fully repealing the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights (LEOBR) and replacing it with a civilian–driven, public–facing approach to police discipline. 

Civilian–Driven Transparency in Police Misconduct
  • Police Disciplining Police: A single individual – the chief or head of a police agency – will no longer control the investigation, charging, and ultimate discipline of officers in a manner that is not transparent and excludes public participation.
  • Civilian Charging Committee: A committee of all civilians will review the complaint and resulting investigation of misconduct against an officer, providing sunlight on the investigation and charging of an officer. The charging committee makes recommendations that serve as a baseline for the discipline that an officer receives.
  • Trial Boards: If an officer rejects the punishment decided by the Civilian Charging Committee and offered by the chief, they can appeal for a hearing in front of a trial board made up of a majority of civilians (2 out of 3). All trial boards will be transparent and open to the public, and the victim and the officer both have the right to attend with counsel.
  • Command–level Deficiencies: The police disciplinary process will no longer look at just the officer accused of misconduct but also the officer’s supervisors to see if their management contributed to the officer’s actions.

Supporting Civilian Complaints
  • Complaint Intake: Civilians may file complaints with their local police accountability board as well as the police department.
  • Victim’s Rights Advocate: Each agency must designate a victim’s rights advocate to provide a victim with information regarding the complaint, investigatory, and adjudicatory process.
  • Complaint Tracking: Each agency must create a database to enable a complainant to follow the status of their case throughout every step of the process.
  • Complainant Notice: A complainant must receive copies of the investigatory file, any trial board proceeding, and the ultimate disciplinary decision. The complainant also has the opportunity to review an officer’s account prior to completion of the investigation.
  • Timing: The investigatory and charging stages of the complaint process must be resolved in a timely fashion.

Swift & uniform penalties for police misconduct
  • Uniformity: Police agencies must use a Statewide, uniform matrix to discipline officers, developed by the Police Training & Standards Commission through an open, public process.
  • Dismissal: A police officer must be fired upon conviction for felonies and certain misdemeanors.
  • Emergency Suspensions: A police officer may be suspended for certain misconduct and criminal charges.
  • Decertification: The Maryland Police Training and Standards Commission must decertify police officers who are convicted of a felony, convicted of certain misdemeanors, or were previously fired or resigned while being investigated for serious misconduct or use of excessive force.

Other provisions
  • Education: Provides $8.5 million in scholarships for those going into law enforcement.
  • Loan Assistance: Provides $1,500,000 for higher education loan repayment for those in law enforcement.
  • Data–Driven Approach: In order to root out patterns of police misconduct, aggregate data on police misconduct will be publicly available.
  • No Compliance, No Funding: A police agency can lose State public safety grants if its officers fail to comply with the Maryland Use of Force Statute.
  • Liability Caps: A victim may now receive a greater monetary award from a civil lawsuit stemming from an illegal act committed by a police officer.
  • Right to Record: A police officer may not prohibit or prevent a civilian from recording an officer’s actions.
  • Stops: At the commencement of a traffic or other stop, an officer must describe the reason for the stop and provide identifying information.
  • SWAT Reporting: Law enforcement agencies must report on their use of specialized entry teams.

SB 71 - Maryland Police Accountability Act of 2021 - Body-Worn Cameras, Employee Programs, and Use of Force. This bill requires all local and state law enforcement officers to wear body cameras by 2025. The legislation also restricts the use of force to what is necessary and proportional. In addition, it mandates that law enforcement establish data–based, early intervention systems to identify officers who are at-risk for engaging in the use of excessive force and that they provide all officers who are so identified with retraining and behavioral interventions, reassignments, or other appropriate responses to reduce the risk of the use of excessive force. Agencies must also provide access to voluntary and confidential services to address the mental health issues of an officer stemming from personal and work–related concerns.

SB 178 - Maryland Police Accountability Act of 2021 - Search Warrants and Inspection of Records Relating to Police Misconduct (Anton's Law). This provides the public with access to police disciplinary records and puts greater restrictions on how and when no-knock warrants can be served.

Transparency of Records
  • Public Access: Police misconduct and disciplinary records are no longer held in secret. These records can be publicly accessed under the Public Information Act, regardless of the outcome or when the record was made.
  • Zero Destruction of Records: Police agencies can no longer destroy or expunge police misconduct and disciplinary records.
  • No Compliance, No Funding: A police agency can lose State public safety grants if it fails to provide data on police misconduct.

  • Raising the Bar for No Knock Warrants: No knock warrants may only be used as a last resort when the life or safety of an individual is in danger. 
  • Application for No Knock Warrants: An application for a no knock warrant must include that someone’s life or safety is in danger, be approved by a supervisor and State’s Attorney before the judge reviews the application, and include detailed information as to why a no knock warrant is the last resort, including whether children or other people are at the location.
  • Timing of No Knock Warrants: A no knock warrant may only be executed between 8:00 am and 7:00 pm, absent exigent circumstances, and officers executing a warrant must clearly identify themselves and use body cameras. 
  • Expiration: To prevent staleness, all warrant must be executed within 10 days of issuance.
  • General Warrant Execution: Police must provide occupants with 20 seconds notice before entering a residence and may not use military style stun devices when executing a warrant, absent exigent circumstances.

I spoke on the floor supporting the override of SB 178 and SB 670, highlighting the importance of these bills especially in light of how police mistreated the 5 year old last year. You can see my statement here (at 52:45).

Other Policing Bills

SB 786 - This bill returns control of the Baltimore City Police Department to the City of Baltimore, contingent upon ratification by Baltimore City voters. The Baltimore Police Department was brought under state control in 1860 and is the only local agency under state control.

SB 600 - Maryland Police Accountability Act of 2021 - Surplus Military Equipment and Investigation of Deaths Caused by Police Officers. This bill prohibits local law enforcement agencies from getting certain free surplus military equipment (e.g. grenade launchers) from the federal government. In addition, it requires all cases of deaths caused by police officers to be investigated by an independent agency in the Office of the Attorney General. This will ensure impartiality in the investigation, rather than having a department investigate its own officers.

You can see all the floor agendas and debates here.

Other Veto Overrides

SB 494 - Juvenile Restoration Act. This bill ends juvenile life sentences without parole. Individuals who were convicted as adults for an offense committed as a minor can petition for a reduction of sentence after being imprisoned for at least 20 years for the offense.

HB 37 - Prevailing Wage. This bill ensures that contracted workers are paid a fair wage in state government projects. The bill expands Maryland’s prevailing wage laws to apply to State contracts with a value of $250,000+ instead of $500,000+ and for projects for which the State provides at least 25 percent of the construction costs instead of 50 percent.