Del. Susan McComas: Some police reform proposals in Maryland General Assembly not in Harford’s best interest | COMMENTARY
By Del. Susan McComas
Mar 10, 2021 at 5:00 AM
One of a series of weekly commentaries from Harford County state legislators regarding the 2021 Maryland General Assembly session.
In “A Tale of Two Cities,” Charles Dickens begins with “It was the best of times and it was the worst of times.” That’s kind of how things are in the 2021 legislative session.
In this historic Maryland General Assembly, the second continuous legislative body outside of Britain’s Parliament, Adrienne Jones was selected as the first Black and first female Speaker of the House of Delegates. The capitol building is the oldest state capitol in continuous use. It is also the only state capitol to function as the United States’ Capitol. There is so much history that has occurred in this building and this selection was overdue.
Probably the most important event in the founding of our nation was on Dec. 23, 1783, when General George Washington resigned his commission as Commander of the Continental Army in the old Maryland Senate Chambers. At the time, Washington was beloved by the American citizenry. He could have easily become a military dictator for life, but he respected the importance a civilian government and the rule of the people. General Washington was a humble and God-fearing man who understood that America had much potential and a wonderful future. Had he been eager for power, he could have easily snuffed out the light of democracy just beginning to form. By stepping away from military power, he blew that democratic spark into a blaze and became America’s first president.
Those are some of the best of times in the history of Maryland.
There was also the worst of times in history. Maryland was a slave-holding state, torn in loyalty between the North and the South. Harford County’s former resident, John Wilkes Booth, assassinated President, Abraham Lincoln. Years of marginalized Black citizens followed the emancipation of Blacks, with discrimination in housing, schooling and voting rampant.
Currently, the legislature is considering a number of bills dealing with police reform, repealing the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights, use of force, no-knock warrants, police mental health, citizen review and trial boards.
I believe Harford’s citizens are supportive and content with the police practices in Harford County. The Harford County Sheriff’s Office and the three municipal police departments have worked diligently to recruit minority applicants. With the current climate, there is great fear and trepidation for young men and women to enter this profession. Life on the streets for police offices is dangerous and unpredictable.
Our community has embraced the School Resource Officers. This provides an opportunity for students to have a positive experience with police. The horrific death of George Floyd cannot be the dominating experience Black students have of police. If it is, it is no wonder they fear and hate police.
Maryland is known as America in miniature. What works in Montgomery County, Prince George’s County or Baltimore City is not necessarily best for Harford County. Right now, several of the Harford County elected officials believe that their constitutional authority is being eroded by the majority party’s insistence that what their citizens are demanding is good for Harford County. The training, the employee assistance, the college tuition forgiveness are something hopefully that will help with recruitment. But many of the reforms will not make Harford safer. These include eliminating qualified immunity, repealing the Law Enforcement Officer’s Bill of Rights, and banning the chokehold in even life or death situations.
Psychologist Abraham Maslow theorized humans have a hierarchy of needs. The first foundational need was physiological (food, water, clothing, warmth and rest). The second need was safety (security in person, property and removal from danger). Baltimore City murders are at a record high and case closure rates at a record low. In light of all these problems, the city wants the state to place all control of the Baltimore Police Department under City Hall. I am not sure the city can justify this change while under a Federal Consent Decree, but the votes are in the Assembly to make this happen.
“A Tale of Two Cities” was a novel, what is happening in the General Assembly is real and will have long-term consequences for Harford County and some of it is not in the county’s best interest.
Finally, I want to remind graduating high school seniors and those currently in college who reside in Legislative District 34B to apply for a scholarship. The deadline on April 1, 2021. Please forward your applications to: Del. Susan K. McComas, Room 323, Lowe House Office Building, Annapolis, MD 21401