A work group of Maryland lawmakers assembled to address police reform and accountability held its fourth virtual session Thursday, but this time they heard from state prosecutors.
The three prosecutors, speaking on behalf of the Maryland State’s Attorney Association, offered a few recommendations for police reform such as implicit bias training, creation of a statewide database to track police misconduct and requiring law enforcement agencies to immediately inform state’s attorney offices of police misconduct.
One proposal the association doesn’t want: an independent agency or appointed prosecutor from the state attorney general’s office to handle local cases that may involve incidents such as use of force by police officers.
“I believe very strongly the local state’s attorneys have the greatest responsibility to the people that elected them,” said Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy. “We know our community. We present cases to them all the time and we understand how to try cases in our respective jurisdictions.”
Del. Wanika Fisher (D-District 47B) of Hyattsville said residents may not agree with certain decisions made by a state’s attorney, such as the 2018 death on the Eastern Shore of 19-year-old Anton Black, who died while in police custody.
“What do you do for a jurisdiction where the electorate in keeping the state’s attorney accountable does not have the same view of justice?” she said.
The work group composed of state delegates first met on June 23, several weeks after the Memorial Day death of George Floyd, who died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. Floyd’s death has been a flashpoint in the ongoing national discussion about police reform and systemic racism against Blacks and Latinos, with massive demonstrations and protests continuing in the months since.
In Maryland, the goal for lawmakers will be to craft legislation when the state’s General Assembly reconvenes in January.
The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee will hold public hearings on police reform next week, beginning at 1 p.m. Tuesday.
During the work group’s virtual meeting Thursday with state delegates, Del. Gabriel Acevero (D-Montgomery County) wanted to know what the legislature could do to ensure state’s attorneys can charge officers who may have used excessive force.
Acevero also pointed out that Maryland doesn’t have a statewide policy on use of force.
Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby said the state’s Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights, known as LEOBR, should be repealed because it shields “rogue officers” from accountability for misconduct.
Although the U.S. Department of Justice chose in 2017 not to bring charges against the Baltimore police officers in the death of Freddie Gray two years prior, Mosby said the city now has full implementation of body-worn cameras, de-escalation policies and police vans equipped with cameras.
During her tenure, Mosby said, her office has secured 22 convictions against police officers.
“When you talk about the power of the local prosecutor in utilizing that discretion and the need for it, we can look right to Baltimore City and see how it has impacted the state,” she said. “My office is the best to handle police misconduct that occurs in our community.”