In a state with one of America’s most violence cities, lawmakers considering repealing Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights

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BALTIMORE, MD – Lawmakers in the State of Maryland are contemplating ending the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights in a move to placate protesters and members of Black Lives Matter.

Opponents of the Bill of Rights claim that the protections that are built in unfairly shield police officers from discipline.  They also believe that the measure allows officers who have committed misconduct in some way be able to keep their job with little to no penalty. 

Democratic Baltimore City Senator Jill Carter is one of the main lawmakers in the city pushing for the bill to be repealed.  She said:

“We’ve had people, families, mothers, entire communities come before this body year after year talking of their stories. Their biggest issue is that they have been in some way victimized and there has been no relief, there is no justice and they have been unable to find relief and a lot of the reason for that is the lack of accountability and transparency that exists in the institution of law enforcement.

“We would no longer endorse a two-tiered system, one set of bill of rights for everyone and another specific bill or rights for law enforcement.  We should all be equal. The people should be the police, and the police should be the people.”

Police unions in the state do not seem opposed by some sort of tweaking of the language in the Bill of Rights, however, they are concerned if the state removes the bill altogether without any clear replacement, it may end up being a detriment.  The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3 attorney Michael Davey said:

“If the LEOBR is simply repealed under JPR 15, each of the 148 law enforcement agencies in this state will have the ability to create their own disciplinary process with no oversight or control by your General Assembly.”

However, Carter, and her allies, have proposed some changes to the Bill of Rights. 

They are that formal complaints would no longer be protected as part of an employee’s record, something that has been happening in other states for years.  For example, in the State of Florida, if you want to know an officer’s disciplinary record, all you have to do is file the request and pay for the copying fees.

Carter also wants to extend the time frame in which a citizen has to file a formal complaint on an officer.  Currently, in Maryland, it is 366 days from the time the alleged grievance occurred.  Meaning, on day 367, a formal complaint cannot be filed against an officer. 

In Carter’s plan, citizens would have up to three years from the date of the alleged grievance to file a formal complaint.  In addition, she would like a civilian police employee to do the investigation instead of a sworn internal affairs officer.  She also wants to reduce the amount of time in which a subject officer can obtain an employee. 

In the most absurd move, Carter actually thinks it is a good idea that a citizen filing a formal complaint should not have to sign and/or swear under oath that what they are telling is the truth.  What this measure would do is effectively vastly increase the amount of false complaints against officers with no legal recourse against them.

How it is now is that if a person comes in to file a formal complaint against an officer, they must first provide a sworn written statement that what they are alleging is the truth.  If it is able to be proven later that they lied, they are subject to arrest in order to deter people from lying and tarnishing someone’s good name and bogging down the system. 

If Carter’s measure passes, anyone can walk in, file a fraudulent complaint, without fear of repercussions.  Not sure what Carter is thinking here and the Baltimore County State Attorney Scott Shellenberger seems to agree.  He said:

“People should continue to sign under oath and swear what they say is true and a sustained finding, which would allow it to become public.” 

David Rocah, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland claims that the procedure proposed by Carter is the same used by other public employees.  One would think, as an attorney for the ACLU, he would know for certain, which would make on suspect.  Rocah said:

“We think the procedure to replace the LEOBR is the same as the procedure that is used for other public employees.”

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Virginia House passes bill to remove qualified immunity from police after it initially failed

September 9th, 2020

RICHMOND, VA- The Virginia House of Delegates just passed a bill eliminating qualified immunity for all law enforcement officers.

The bill to end qualified immunity for police initially failed in the House, but lawmakers decided to reconsider it and narrowly passed it on a 49-45 vote. This vote, which is one of the latest in a series of Democratic-led bills to overhaul policing, is another measure that will weaken law enforcement agencies across the state.

Qualified immunity protects police officers from being sued personally if they did not violate established law in the course of their duties, however, their departments may still be sued. By removing qualified immunity protections, officers can now be personally sued even when they did not break the law.

According to reports, under the original bill law enforcement departments would have automatically been held liable for actions taken by uniformed officers even if they were off-duty at the time. However, the measure was modified last week so that departments would not necessarily be held liable in such situations.

The bill, which was introduced by Del. Jeffrey Bourne (D-Richmond) was voted down on September 4th despite the modification. Four days later, on September 8th, Del. Ibraheem Samirah (D-Fairfax) revived the matter by motioning the House to reconsider the prior struck down vote.

Initially, Samirah voted against the bill and Del. Kaye Kory (D-Fairfax) abstained. However, during September 8th’s session, they both flipped their decisions, tipping the scales in favor of the bill. Kory said in a statement:

“Although I had concerns about the bill last Friday, I welcomed the reconsideration as an opportunity to do further work with Delegate Bourne and my House and Senate colleagues.”

Republicans lashed out at the vote, claiming that other issues prevented some lawmakers from being able to vote, with two delegates abstaining. The bill is now set to go to the Senate for a vote. 

The same day, another bill passed that would empower the state Attorney General to investigate any pattern or practice of conduct by law enforcement that might deprive people of “rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected” by U.S. and Virginia Law.

This bill also removes disciplinary action from police union negotiations. It passed the House with a 55-43 votes. Republicans did not issue a statement, but delegates voted against the bill. Del. Jason Miyares (R-Virginia Beach) said the bill would make recruiting law enforcement officers a challenge and divert attention and resources from training. He said in a statement:

“The good cops are all going to leave because if they’re going to stay in the job, the liability exposure is just going to be enormous.”

Samirah said that the only reason he voted against the bill initially was because he felt the measure would not pass and wanted to be able to ask for it to be reconsidered. He then said that his move was a “miscalculation” and that the bill would have initially passed if he voted “yes” because one of the Republican delegates was gone that day.

The Daily Progress reported that the proposal has drawn strong opposition from law enforcement groups who continue to argue that it will result in a flurry of frivolous lawsuits and make it difficult to recruit and retain officers. 

The remainder of House Democrats’ police reform legislation advanced of the many objections from GOP lawmakers. The measure, which now will head to the Senate include:

Ban searches based on an officer’s assertion that they smell marijuana and making several minor traffic violations, such as having tinted windows a secondary offense;

Affirm the right of local commonwealths’ attorneys to dismiss charges they don’t wish to pursue without being required to explain their position to a judge;

Institute a blanket prohibition of no-knock search warrants and neck restraints;

Require police to report wrongdoing by other officers;

Create a misdemeanor and felony charge that could be lodged against officers who do not intervene if they see a colleague using force unlawfully and;

Expand the process by which police officers can lose their state license to work in sworn law enforcement positions and create minimum standards that all police officers in the state must follow.

Republican lawmakers proposed a series of amendments they said would have made the legislation more palatable to members of their caucus. House Minority Leader Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) said in a statement:

“Much of the legislation rammed through today by Democrats had the potential to be thoughtful reforms of how police do business. Sadly, the majority was so bent on punishing law enforcement that they refused to listen to reason.”

Republicans also proposed exceptions to the ban on no-knock search warrants, arguing that judges should be allowed to authorize them in certain circumstances. Del. Buddy Fowler (R-Hanover) said:

“The main reason we have for what we call a no-knock warrant is so police can neutralize a potentially dangerous and violent confrontation between police and the public. This legislation eliminates this possibility and I believe will result in more violence, not less.”

The Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police sounded the alarm as the bill ending qualified immunity makes its way to the Senate. On Twitter they posted:

“HB5013, the bill to end qualified immunity for law enforcement in Virginia now heads to the @VASenate for a floor vote. The Senate convenes at noon on Wed & again at noon on Thurs. Unsure when this bill will be heard. CONTACT YOUR SENATORS TO VOTE NO!”

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