Package of police reform bills set to be introduced in Maryland, local sheriff weighs-in
MARYLAND – Maryland Legislators are planning to introduce about a dozen bills in January that may impact law enforcement officers across the state.
The bills address a wide range of topics including offering incentives to recruit more officers, banning no-knock warrants and chokeholds, independent prosecution for cases when there’s a death in police custody and more. Lawmakers believe the end product will be a step forward and while one Sheriff agrees some of the changes are good he has concerns about others.
“It’s not something that was taken lightly and we hear them,” says Speaker pro tempore of the Maryland House of Delegates Sheree Sample-Hughes. “Certainly with the introduction of this legislation, it’s introduction. It’s going to vetted through its proper channels.”
One of the bills may help with recruitment by offering free tuition at a University System of Maryland institution if the student majors in criminology or criminal justice and becomes a sworn police officer for five years. “It’s no secret that it’s very difficult to recruit young police officers now. People just don’t want to go into this line of work,” says Talbot County Sheriff Joe Gamble.
Other proposals include banning no-knock warrants, unless the case meets certain criteria. “We’ve seen too often in the state and in the nation, done incorrectly. It has to come to an end. People are losing their lives as a result of those no knock warrants,” says Sample-Hughes.
However, Sheriff Gamble believes his more than 30 years of law enforcement experience proves otherwise. “No-knock search warrants are probably safer than knock and announce search warrants because you have specialized teams doing them,” says Gamble.
Sheriff Gamble also says he’s concerned about state wide legislation because not all jurisdictions experience the same problems. “Are there issues in some police departments? Yes. But don’t brand all of us. Don’t brand the police officers on the Eastern Shore of Maryland with the problems that are happening in another city in another state,” says Sheriff Gamble.
However, Sample-Hughes believes these bills would ensure the state has equitable laws regardless of where someone lives. “I should know that I’m getting quality law enforcement standards through out the entire state of Maryland,” says Sample-Hughes.
Sample-Hughes believes police reform should be about balance meaning not just protections for the public but also ensuring there are protections for law enforcement officers. Another proposal would require all police departments to use body cameras by January 1st, 2025.
Lawmakers plan to formally introduce these pieces of legislation at the start of the general assembly session on January 13th, 2021.
Click here to see the full Final Report of the Workgroup to Address Police Reform and Accountability in Maryland.