ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Cries for social justice and equality in America reached new heights in 2020. This weekend, Maryland lawmakers made a bold move by overriding Gov. Larry Hogan's vetoes on three bills addressing police reform and accountability.
After working on reforms for months, following nationwide protests against racial injustice, the Democrat-controlled General Assembly voted Saturday to override Hogan's vetoes from Friday evening.
"It’s probably the most reform we have ever gotten but that doesn’t mean that’s where it has to stop and it’s the most we’ve ever gotten because we haven’t done much in the past," said Yanet Amanuel, Public Policy Advocate for the ACLU of Maryland.
The measures include the repeal of job protections that critics say impede accountability.
Maryland approved the nation's first Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights in 1974 and now Maryland is the first to repeal it, replacing it with new procedures that give civilians a role in the police disciplinary process.
Another bill allows the public to obtain disciplinary records and complaints against officers and limits the use of no-knock warrants.
Supporters said the measures are needed to increase transparency and build trust in police.
"Because now communities will be able to know how their complaints were investigated and how departments held those officers accountable," said Amanuel.
"Today, the General Assembly dealt a horrendous blow to the safety of all Marylanders", said House Minority Leader Nic Kipke. "In the middle of a public safety crisis across the state and at the end of an incredibly deadly week in Baltimore City, the General Assembly has chosen to tie the hands of police and potentially endanger their lives. The General Assembly also chose to override a veto of a bill that could allow the early release of violent criminals who were sentenced to life for the unspeakable crimes they committed as juveniles. This is absolute madness."
When explaining his decision to veto the bills, Hogan said the measures would erode police morale and damage recruitment and retention.
"I’ve heard from a lot of black officers who have said that they joined the force because they saw the injustice in their community and they wanted to be a change. That change was met with a lot of difficulty because of things like the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights and the lack of transparency so I think for the officers who are there for the right reasons, who are there to try to protect and service their communities, they will welcome these changes," said Amanuel.
The General Assembly overrode the vetoes on:
- SB 71 - Maryland Police Accountability Act of 2021 - Body-Worn Cameras - Employee Programs, and Use of Force
- SB 178 - Maryland Police Accountability Act of 2021 - Search Warrants and Inspection of Records Relating to Police Misconduct
- HB 670 - Police Reform and Accountability Act of 2021
- SB 494 - Juveniles Convicted as Adults - Sentencing - Limitations and Reduction (Juvenile Restoration Act)
Monday is that last day of the session.