The New Police Reform Measures in Maryland

In 1974, the State of Maryland led 20 others in enacting the police Bill of Rights. These legislations shield the police from blame by preventing public inquiries into police misconduct. These laws also allow the erasure of complaint records against individual officers after some time.

After a white law enforcement officer, Derek Chauvin, killed an unarmed African-American man, George Floyd, on May 25th, 2020, the event sparked widespread outrage, leading to national and international demonstrations and protests against racism in policing and police brutality in the US.

During the protests, religious leaders, politicians, the Democratic Party, some Republicans, the civil society, protesters, and even a section of the police joined hands to call for substantial policy reforms in the US. Some states have taken bold steps to address the problem, including Maryland.

On April 10th, 2021, Maryland became the first State to revoke the police Bill of Rights. The democratic party-dominated General Assembly overrode Larry Hogan’s (Republic governor) veto on a new police reform bill. Here is a preview of what is contained in the new law:

New disciplinary process

One of the most drastic changes the new law has brought relates to civilian involvement in making decisions regarding rogue police officers’ disciplining. All Baltimore City and county governments in Maryland will now invite civilian volunteers to sit on police disciplinary boards.

According to the new law, a panel of five civilians will sit to hear complaints of police misconduct and bring charges against culpable offices; however, Sheriffs or Chiefs will still administer punishment. But they will have to follow matrices of minimum penalties to various kinds of misconducts or violations. An officer unsatisfied with how the panel handled their case can appeal the matter to the new trial board consisting of:

  • a fellow police officer
  • a civilian
  • a retired or active judge

Body cameras

It will be mandatory for all Maryland’s county-level policing agencies to adopt body cameras. By 2025, any law enforcement officer who frequently interacts with civilians must wear a body camera. The police will also allow anybody to record them provided the person does so safely and lawfully.

If any of the four most prominent law enforcement departments in the State is yet to adopt body cameras, they will have to do so no later than 2023. These departments are the:

  • Harford county sheriff’s office
  • Maryland state police
  • Howard counties
  • County police in Anne Arundel

Use of force

A section of the new law creates the use of force policy.  According to that part of the law, an officer who goes against those standards causes death or severe injury to another person will serve a prison term of up to 10 years upon conviction. The police can only use force, according to the new law, where necessary. The force used mustn’t be disproportional to the perceived threat.

Moreover, the officer can only use the necessary force if doing so will prevent imminent threats of physical injury to other persons or effectuate legitimate policy objectives.

Police killings

The new law has established our unit within the state attorney general’s office to investigate all extrajudicial killings of civilians by the police. A local state attorney will still decide whether to bring criminal charges or clear a police officer.

No-knock warrants and surplus military gear

The new law bars law enforcement officers from bursting into a suspect’s home unannounced unless they can show that knocking would otherwise put lives at risk. Police can only use the no-knock warrant during the day (between 8:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m.).

The new changes have also put restrictions on the types of surplus gear law enforcement departments in Maryland can receive from the United States Department of Defense. The off-limits equipment now includes:

  • Explosives
  • grenade launchers
  • drones
  • military aircrafts
  • vehicles outfitted with offensive armaments

High payouts in lawsuits

The package has significantly increased the compensation in a lawsuit filed in Maryland over police misconduct. The new law has raised the cap from 400000 dollars to 89000 dollars. However, this does not impact charges against law enforcement officers handled in federal courts (where there is no limitation on a potential judgment)

What next if you are a victim of police brutality?

If you or someone you love has been a victim of police misconduct or brutality, get in touch with Vindicate Criminal Law Group. We can help you in cases relating to:

  • false arrest
  • excessive force
  • police brutality
  • negligent retention
  • sexual abuse
  • suspect interviews and interrogations
  • warrantless searches
  • due process violations
  • wrongful convictions
  • unlawful seizures and searches
  • police shootings
  • racial profiling

At the reputable Vindicate Criminal Law Group, we have the know-how and experience it takes to craft a strong police misconduct case, and we will work hard to ensure you receive the just compensation you deserve.  Call or text 1.888.212.4824 to schedule your consultation!