Important measures on police accountability and criminal justice reform, top priorities for Progressive Maryland, were signed by Gov. Larry Hogan Thursday, May 19.
/PM BlogSpace Report/ Gov. Larry Hogan signed into law hard-won measures on police accountability and the reform of criminal justice Thursday, setting a path to official action to include the public in evaluation of police misconduct and reduce incarceration costs to impacted communities.
Progressive Maryland and other advocates worked particularly hard on the police accountability measure, which adds civilian oversight and improved officer training to what had in most instances been a system where police misconduct, including killings of civilians, was mainly judged within the department by other officers, and frequently resulted in no action for egregious, even lethal behavior.
The bill was fashioned by a working group drawn from both House and Senate. Even there, an overwhelming police presence at each hearing brought severe pressure on progressive legislatures. The result was a compromise, but advanced the cause of transparency and accountability considerably.
The Washington Post reported, “Larry Stafford, who leads the Maryland Coalition for Justice and Police Accountability and is the executive director of Progressive Maryland, said advocates have worked for years to change how officers are hired, trained and disciplined, without much success.”
The Post quoted Stafford: “A lot of credit goes to the activists and organizers in Baltimore City who stood up after what happened with Freddie Gray and pushed for changes. … “That made this very possible.”
The governor also signed a massive revamp of the state’s criminal justice system intended to reduce incarceration by trimming or eliminating mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent crimes and substituting treatment for incarceration for drug use. It was attractive to conservatives as well because of anticipated savings of almost $80 million.
Significant bills sought by progressive legislators and advocates – and passed in both chambers – are still awaiting Hogan’s action. As Bryan Sears reported in the Daily Record (re-posted by the Maryland Reporter, they included “legislation limiting the use of pesticides linked to the decimation of bee colonies; a bill that increases the amount of renewable energy sources that must be used in generating electricity in the state [the Green Energy Jobs Act] ; and a bill that sponsors say would help middle-class families deal with the rising costs of college education…”
Many other bills, around 100, still await action by the governor. The Post’s Ovetta Wiggins reported that “Among the bills still awaiting action from Hogan are measures that would increase funding to overcrowded school districts; make college more affordable; require the state to match a federal grant for pre-kindergarten funding; and create a commission to study equity in school funding.
“[House Speaker Michael] Busch said it would be a “major concern” if Hogan vetoed the education-related bills, given the importance Marylanders place on top-quality schools. He noted that some of the bills require the state to spend additional money, an obligation Hogan has been reluctant to embrace in the past.”