Ava DuVernay’s four-year-old, award-winning documentary “13th” influenced viewers to discuss and assess how the 13th Amendment started mass incarceration in the United States and how it affected the Black community.
Tamara McKinney of Lanham said the film prompted her and Beverly John to establish Concerned Citizens for Bail Reform in Prince George’s County two years ago.
“We saw how bail reform is in this country and it continues to hurt Black people. It’s ridiculous,” said McKinney, a human resource specialist for the federal government. “Although I have family members who were in law enforcement like my father, but police reform is needed in the county and state of Maryland.”
McKinney will join criminal justice advocates and loved ones of people either killed or abused by police during a police reform protest Saturday, Oct. 17 outside the Centre at Forestville.
The rally will be two days before a work group comprised of state delegates possibly hold its last meeting on police reform recommendations and craft into legislation when the General Assembly session begins in January.
The group, chaired by Del. Vanessa Atterbeary (D-Montgomery County), met last week with a recommendation that requires every law enforcement agency in the state have body cameras by 2025. In addition, ensure police officers receive routine mental and physical health assessments.
Although the lawmakers recommended approval for a statewide use-of-force policy, specific guidelines within the policy will be reviewed Thursday such as a ban on shooting at moving vehicles unless used as a weapon; a ban on police departments using military-style equipment; and require officers to intervene “who see another officer using force beyond what is objectively reasonable under the circumstances.”
Lawmakers also plan to discuss whether an independent agency or appointed prosecutor from the state attorney general’s office should handle local cases that may involve police shootings, especially when a person dies.
Del. Gabriel Acevero (D-Montgomery County) said he “has deep concerns” about police investigating themselves and local prosecutors, or state’s attorneys, working closely with police. He said assessments are needed when a prosecutor declines to bring charges against a police officer such as the officer-involved death of Anton Black, 19, in Caroline County.
Del. Debra Davis (D-Charles County) said local state’s attorneys should prosecute local cases since they are elected officials.
“If we let them off the hook, we’ll never have any other indication of how the prosecutor’s office handle other cases and how equitable they are in other cases,” she said. “It’s an important measure I don’t want removed.”
Atterbeary, a mother of two boys and one girl, read a quote to summarize this topic.
“Real justice and safety for Black communities will require a complete overhaul of the prosecutor/police relationship,” she said. “That is what I think the community wants and I think that is what we need to look at when we are making these recommendations.”
A Goucher College poll released Monday, Oct. 12 shows 85 percent of Marylanders support an independent state prosecutor to investigate misconduct charges against police officers.
In other police reform measures, another 87 percent support making police misconduct records available to other law enforcement agencies and to the public.
About 82 percent would like a requirement for police officers to undergo racial bias training.
However, about 79 percent support more money for police departments to hire more or better trained officers. Only 19 percent oppose it.
The poll surveyed 1,002 adults between Sept. 30 and Oct. 4 has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
In the meantime, McKinney suggested compiling a national database for peace officers who are fired or found guilty of criminal misconduct and creating mental health crisis teams to assist street officers with non-criminal emergencies.
“I know we need police. I’m not living in a bubble, but the role of police [officers] must change,” she said.