Activists host "die-in" to end police brutality

Posted at 11:38 PM, Jan 18, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-18 23:38:19-05

During this year's legislative session in Annapolis there will be a new push to bring accountability to police departments both in Baltimore City and around the state.

Dozens of activists held what they called a “Die-in” outside of the State House on Monday night; the night of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.  They believe the natural progression for MLK’s dream would be the end of police brutality.

“This is not the year to be fractured or to be embodied in different struggles. We need to understand that we are all in a fight to restore our humanity collectively as a community,” said Makayla Gilliam-Price, an activist from City College in Baltimore.

Each person who laid down on the frozen ground of Lawyer’s Mall represented a person who died in police custody over the past year in Maryland.

One of the main targets for the protesters is Maryland’s Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights, or LEOBR.

“Right now the police have an extreme advantage over the people accusing them of excessive use of force,” said protester Fran Pollner.

Proposed changes to the LEOBR did not pass during last year's legislative session.  But just after the session ended, Freddie Gray died in the custody of Baltimore City Police; This year, the activists feel they have another chance.

A task force has put together a list of more than 20 recommendations, many of them dealing with how excessive force complaints should be handled.

Click here to read the Public Safety and Policing Work Group's Recommendations 

The head of the state's Fraternal Order of Police says the LEOBR only protects officers from administrative penalties; not criminal charges.

“At this point our argument still hasn't really changed much. We still don't believe that there's any true need for substantive changes to LEOBR,” said Vince Canales, the president of the Maryland Fraternal Order of Police.

He believes changing the LEOBR might not bring about the changes the protesters are looking for.

“Law enforcement officers throughout the State of Maryland have the same exact rights as any citizen here,” Canales said.  “And there is no change or differentiation within that. The LEOBR does nothing more than provide administrative due process protections.”

Still, the activists who gathered in Annapolis Monday night say the time to get those changes passed, is now.

“If we can have goals for many things in this state; economic goals, environmental goals, we can make a goal to end police violence in our state and rebuild the trust between communities and police,” said Larry Stafford of Progressive Maryland.

“Those recommendations from will be sent to the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee and the House Judiciary Committee, to determine whether they can be turned into actual bills.