by Nicholas Schade ‘23
On Saturday, Maryland lawmakers passed the Maryland Police Accountability Act of 2021, a package of five bills aimed at reforming the state’s police. One of such bills repealed Maryland’s Law Enforcement Bill of Rights (LEOBR), a law that puts misconduct investigations mostly in the hands of the police and grants the officers being investigated various protections. The repealing bill was opposed by state Republicans, including governor Larry Hogan, who issued a veto that was overturned during the General Assembly. The repealing of the LEOBR is a crucial step in improving the efficiency in which police officers can be disciplined for misbehavior.
One of the most disputed portions of the LEOBR is its requirement that during police misconduct hearings the five-member trial board that determines whether the officer is punished must be made up of at least three other officers. This privilege is not available to other public sector employees, and the police officers on the trial board often side with their coworkers. Additionally, only other police officers can lead investigations on misconducts, and thus experts like healthcare professionals that could provide special insight into the case are barred from contributing. Finally, under the LEOBR there is a five day waiting period before investigation can begin, which grants an unfair advantage to the police officer being charged, as it allows them to prematurely compile their defense.