The Progressive Maryland Justice Task Force has formed to create a more just and transformative system of justice in Maryland. We are committed to ending the criminal legal systems oppression of Black and Indigenous People of Color here in Maryland while creating alternative systems for community safety.
2021 Campaign to End Police Corruption and Violence
Following the tragic death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Progressive Maryland joined with other civil rights and community organizations to form the Maryland Coalition for Justice and Police Accountability (MCJPA). Lead by Progressive Maryland, during the 2016 state legislative session, the coalition successfully passed an omnibus bill creating greater transparency into the way policing is conducted. We continue to fight against police misconduct to ensure the safety and justice for Maryland communities.
During the 2021 Legislative Session Progressive Maryland members will continue the fight to end police violence with the following demands to the Maryland General Assembly:
- Allow investigations into all police misconduct to be disclosed under the Maryland Public Information Act (MPIA)
In Maryland, no member of the public can find out how police departments investigate misconduct. Even if you are a victim of misconduct, all you can find out is the outcome of your complaint and the discipline, if the officer was disciplined at all. You cannot find out whether the department conducted a thorough or lackluster investigation of your complaint (or any investigation at all). This is because Maryland’s Public Information Act (PIA) prohibits disclosure of disciplinary files.
Demand: Allow all investigations into police misconduct to be disclosed under the MPIA.
- Create Statutory limits on the Use of Force by Law Enforcement
Maryland is one of the few states that does not have a statutory limit on police officers’ use of force. As a result, Marylanders’ right against force by law enforcement is governed solely by the Supreme Court caselaw defining the minimal constitutional limits, and more specifically, the Supreme Court cases of Graham v. Connor 490 U.S. 386 (1989) and Tennessee v. Garner 471 U.S. 1 (1985). Under those decisions, a law enforcement officer may arrest a person if they have probable cause to believe the person committed a crime and may use force which is objectively reasonable to carry out the arrest. Under these standards, decades of the use of violent and often deadly force by law enforcement officers demonstrates that we must do more to protect our residents.
Demand: Pass a law prohibiting the use of force unless it is necessary (not merely reasonable), with both criminal penalties and the power for civil enforcement, including:
- A complete ban on some uses of force, including choke holds, strangleholds, neck restraints, neckholds, and other carotid artery restraints;
- A ban on other uses of deadly and less lethal force with limited exceptions;
- Defined reasonable alternatives that law enforcement must exhaust in order to effectuate a stop or an arrest;
- Clear definitions of “deadly force,” (to include choke holds, strangleholds, neck restraints, neckholds, and carotid artery restraints); “less lethal force,” “necessary,” “tactics and techniques,” and “totality of the circumstances;”
- A prohibition on shooting at vehicles unless absolutely necessary;
- A limit on officers’ ability to invoke the justification of defense or claim that force was justified if the officer’s behavior itself contributed to the necessity of the use of such force;
- A duty for officers to intervene in improper uses of force by other officers;
- A duty for officers to attempt to de-escalate encounters with the public; and
A requirement that all police departments enact policies and guidance for limiting use of force against:
- pregnant persons;
- children and youth under age 21;
- elderly persons;
- persons with mental, behavioral, or physical disabilities or impairments;
- persons experiencing perceptual or cognitive impairments due to use of alcohol, narcotics, hallucinogens, or other drugs;
- persons suffering from a serious medical condition; and
- persons with limited English proficiency.
- Repeal the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights (LEOBR)
Maryland is in the minority of states that give law enforcement special rights against punishment for wrongdoing. Only 13 other states have a Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights (LEOBR). The LEOBR grants police officers special rights that no other state or local government employee has. For example, under the LEOBR, police abuse can only be investigated by sworn law enforcement and investigations conducted by civilians cannot result in discipline (Pub. Safety §3-104(b)). This is only one example of how the LEOBR has blocked accountability. Since the LEOBR was enacted in 1974, it has allowed police abuse to go unpunished. It is past time for it to be repealed.
Demand: Strike the entire LEOBR (Pub. Safety §3-101 – §3-113) from state law.
- Give the people of Baltimore City the ability to govern the Baltimore City Police Department
Baltimore City—one of only two majority Black jurisdictions in the state—is the only locality in Maryland without authority to govern its own police department. This is because the Police Department is an agency and instrumentality of the state of Maryland, not the City. As a result, Baltimore residents must travel to Annapolis annually during the minimal time that the General Assembly is in session to advocate for change within their local department. This is a racist, ineffective, and inequitable law which must be changed.
Demand: Make the Baltimore City Police Department an agency of the City of Baltimore.
- Take Law Enforcement out of Schools
Every Maryland school district utilizes School Resource Officers (SROs), in spite of overwhelming evidence that police presence in schools substantially increases the likelihood that students will face arrest for behaviors that are better addressed through non-punitive supports and interventions. Additionally, one district, Baltimore City Public Schools, has its own police force authorized by state law (Educ. § 4-318). Statewide, the Safe to Learn Act (Educ. § 7-1501 et. Seq.) promotes districts’ overreliance on police by expressly authorizing them to employ or contract with SROs as the primary means of providing “adequate law enforcement coverage” within every school building. In addition, the SRO/Adequate Coverage Grant, funded at $10 million each year, allocates revenues to school districts and law enforcement agencies for SRO hiring around the state.
Demand: Require and support school districts to shift away from reliance on SROs and towards effective behavior support and intervention strategies by:
- Prohibiting school districts from hiring or contracting to place police in schools;
- Dismantling the Baltimore City School Police Force (by repeal of Educ. § 4-318); and
- Replacing the SRO/Adequate Coverage Grant (established at Educ. § 7-1508(g)) with a grant program, funded at an equal or higher level, dedicated to hiring additional highly trained counselors, social workers, psychologists, and behavioral specialists within school districts.
In Prince George’s County we are working to push for change in the County State’s Attorney’s office. We are calling for an end to the prosecution of minor marijuana possession, an end to the use of cash bail, an to end the prosecution of youth as adults, more investment in juvenile diversion programs and an end to any cooperation with ICE.
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