Md. law enforcement agencies in a period of adjustment as police reform laws take effect
SALISBURY, Md. – Police reform is underway in Maryland as new legislation took effect on October 1st. Law enforcement agencies are in an adjustment period.
“We are not too far into October at this point and at this point, we’re not really sure what the impact is going to be,” said Salisbury Police Chief Barbara Duncan.
The changes include restricting the use of no-knock warrants, and barring law enforcement agencies from buying military grade equipment. Plus, the Attorney General’s office must investigate all police involved deaths, and investigation records against officers must be made public. These are all things that community activists say they’ll be keeping a close eye on. “I think right now we have a lot of activists on the ground and in the streets who are excited for moving forward with this law, but also looking through it with a fine toothed comb and making sure that locally we’re going to be able to hold officers accountable,” said community activist Amber Green.
Further down the line in July 2022, more laws will take effect. That includes changes to police discipline procedures and rules around use of force. On top of that, counties are working on getting together police accountability boards, which are now required.
However, Chief Duncan says none of that will actually affect positive change if police training isn’t adjusted, and police can’t have an open dialogue with accountability boards. “We’re still going to continue to struggle as a state because we haven’t addressed the underlying issues that demand some change,” said Chief Duncan. “The structure of these new bodies are confusing at best. They’re mission is not well-defined in my opinion.”
On a day to day level, Chief Duncan says Salisbury Police officers are going to continue to make safety and community service a priority. The Chief adds she’s looking forward to more guidance coming down from the state level on how exactly these changes will be implemented. Chief Duncan also tells 47ABC if statewide changes to police training do eventually come, she’s hoping to see more of a focus on de-escalation, and providing better resources for calls for mental health issues and drug abuse.
For now, Green says she thinks these changes are just the first step toward making a real impact. “I think the state should be always looking to how they can progress and how they can make change. I think this is a great step, but it’s just a step. We do have a long way to go,” said Green.