CommunityWilliam J. Ford

Maryland House Forms Committee to Hash Out Differences in Police Reform Legislation

ANNAPOLIS — Less than 24 hours after the Maryland Senate approved a police reform bill with several amendments, the House of Delegates rejected the amendments Friday.

The House appointed three members — Dels. Luke Clippinger, Vanessa Atterbeary and David Moon — to serve on a conference committee to work out differences and approve the same legislation in both chambers.

House Minority Leader Nic Kipke (R-Anne Arundel County) will serve as an adviser.

Police reform became one of the top priorities in the General Assembly after House Speaker Adrienne Jones and Senate President Bill Ferguson announced the formation of work groups last year to work on proposed legislation.

The Senate met Friday afternoon, but didn’t announce any appointments to form a three-member conference committee. The body is scheduled to reconvene at 5:30 p.m. Friday.

Both chambers approved different police reform versions. The Senate passed nine bills and the House one bill with about 66 pages.

The topic has become a bit heated and personal for lawmakers.

Atterbeary, a Democrat from Howard County who serves as vice chair of the House Judiciary Committee, posted a few remarks Thursday on Twitter: “[Ten] months. It took 10 months of listening to over 1,000 citizens, advocates, national and local experts, vetting by a work group, the Public Safety Subcommittee, the Judiciary Committee and the entire [House of Delegates]. This was NOT a flawed process.”

Sen. Minority Whip Michael Hough, a Republican who represents parts of Frederick and Carroll counties, said Thursday night, “This has turned into a ‘House vs. Senate’ thing.”

When the bills crossed over to the other chamber, the House combined the Senate nine pieces of legislation into four bills.

One of the bills delegates overwhelmingly approved Friday deals with the city of Baltimore regaining control of its police department, which currently operates as a state agency. The Senate must review it, again, and concur with the House amendments before it can go to the governor’s desk for a signature.

Two other bills are up for final approval in the House, one dealing with whether to allow certain misconduct records to become open by restructuring the state’s Public Information Act and another requiring independent investigations through the state attorney general’s office when a police officer is accused of killing someone.

Preliminary approval was granted in regard to the use of body cameras and also for mental health programs and a statewide use-of-force statute.

The Senate voted 32-15 Thursday to approve the House version sponsored by Jones, which includes the repeal of the controversial Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights statute. The legislation also calls for new officers to complete implicit bias training and annual mental health evaluations.

However, the Senate approved it with several amendments, such as one from Sen. Chris West (R-Baltimore County) that would allow a police officer to appear with a representative before an administrative charging committee “to make a statement in defense of the police officer’s conduct.”

The governor has at least six days, not including Sunday, to sign any legislation into law or veto it.

However, in order for the majority-Democrat legislature to override any vetoes, lawmakers have until Saturday to send the police reform legislation to the governor’s desk.

The 90-day session ends April 12.

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William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer

I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways: Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com

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