The Maryland Senate presented its police reform package Friday, but some activists say the bills don't go far enough.
“There is consensus that the current form of policing makes all of us less safe,” said Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-District 46).
The senate package includes nine bills calling for:
- The repeal of the Law Enforcement Officers' Bill of Rights (LEOBR)
- Demilitarizing police departments
- Expanding police mental health services
- Adding citizens to police hearing panels
“I am very confident that this will be the session where these much-needed changes will finally come to fruition,” Ferguson said.
The bills mirror some the legislation being presented in a similar package by the House of Delegates, but the ACLU of Maryland released a statement saying 90 activist groups feel the Senate's bills fall short.
"When you see how this Senate package waters down police accountability, it feels like a sucker punch,” the president of the Coalition of Concerned Mothers wrote. “The senators are not truly hearing what the real experts are saying about what police accountability is needed."
“Is the package that we've passed perfect? No,” said Sen. Jill Carter (D-District 41). “Is it the most comprehensive reform that we've ever done? Yes.”
The package also calls for a statewide use of force law that includes criminal penalties for police who use excessive force, fail to report excessive force or fail to intervene and stop officers who cross the line. There are also additional protections for whistle blowers.
“As a whistle blower cop myself, I know personally that creating a duty to report wrongdoing and providing protections for officers that do so are critical steps in police reform,” said Ken Williams of the National Coalition of Law Enforcement Officers for Justice Reform and Accountability.
Ferguson said that the Senate agrees with about 90% of what the House has proposed, but those conversations will continue with the hope of this legislation being passed in both houses before the end of session.
Maryland's Fraternal Order of Police has been lobbying against proposed reforms. Its president called this legislative session the "fight of their lives."