The police reform package headed toward passage in Maryland is not all bad, but the new legislation will certainly make a law enforcement career unappealing to many.
With roots in some extreme examples of police misconduct across the country, Maryland lawmakers debated a series of bills this year aimed at heightened transparency and accountability for police. There appeared to be some hints of a bipartisan compromise in the Senate’s early version of the bills, but the amendments offered by the House of Delegates confirmed the state prefers to react with extreme changes rather than a slower, more reasoned approach.
The veto-proof legislation includes new rules on how officers facing misconduct charges are disciplined; creates a new standard for allowable force and imposes new sentencing requirements for officers convicted of excessive force; establishes tougher stands for “no knock” warrants; mandates body camera use by all officers by 2025; repeals the Maryland Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights; and provides public access to certain records for police officers previously sealed.
While we will always favor enhanced transparency and accountability, we feel Maryland lawmakers have gone too far with these sweeping changes. The bills will place unnecessary legal handcuffs on officers and limit their abilities to maintain peace and order when dangerous situations present themselves.
Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly, the police reform package will have a significant impact on recruiting efforts for law enforcement agencies. Police departments across the country have been struggling in recent years with manpower concerns, as veteran officers opt for early retirement or second careers and new, prospective cop interest has waned as a result of the changing feelings toward law enforcement.
There are beneficial measures included in the police reform legislation, including the requirement for body cameras and greater transparency when it comes to police misconduct investigations. However, for the most part, the package passed by the legislature is far too sweeping and unnecessary.
There have been numerous disgusting acts of violence by police officers during apprehensions and other even more heinous examples of bad cops framing the innocent. There are plenty of extreme examples to confirm the need for changes in police operations, but it’s important to remember these unfortunate situations are beyond the pale. The great majority of police officers are commendable, community-minded individuals who simply want to protect their communities and better their surroundings.
Maryland’s legislation will do more harm than good by severely impacting recruitment efforts for law enforcement agencies. This is not the intended consequence of the police reform package, but there is little doubt the job of a cop will be far less appealing after this legislation passes than before. It’s an unfortunate over-reaction to national affairs that will have far reaching ramifications on recruitment efforts for years to come.