Greater transparency is needed before Maryland settles on any eligibility requirements regarding who can serve on local police accountability boards, advocates for police reform in Maryland said Wednesday.
Advocates criticized regulations proposed by the Maryland Police Training and Standards Commission for police accountability boards and administrative charging committees — part of sweeping police reforms approved last year by the Maryland General Assembly.
Members of the Maryland Coalition for Justice and Police Accountability held a news conference in front of the State House to urge the legislature’s Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive, and Legislative Review to call a public hearing to give the public to chance to comment. They’re calling on lawmakers to further revise the proposed regulations before approval.
Yanet Amanuel, public policy director for the ACLU of Maryland, said that in the law approved last year, state lawmakers recognized the importance of allowing local communities to determine their own membership-criteria requirements. Amanuel said those requirements should not be left to unelected members of a statewide police commission.
“The community should not be robbed of the opportunity to provide public comments on such critical regulations, and the members of the AELR should carefully consider these concerns and provide the public with an open and transparent process,” Amanuel said.
The boards are intended to give residents a role in the review and investigation of police-misconduct allegations, but advocates for reform say the police training commission has revised regulations on who can serve on the boards to say that local governing bodies may impose qualifications.
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In a letter sent to the AELR committee last month, the statewide coalition of advocates say a number of counties have already drafted or passed legislation with a range of membership criteria ranging from excluding or banning people with prior convictions from serving, to favoring people with academic and professional experience over members of a community or identity that is over-policed.
Lydia Walther-Rodriguez, the Baltimore and Central Maryland regional director for CASA de Maryland, noted that officials in Maryland’s largest city have heard in recent months from city residents who have demanded there were no limitations on memberships to police disciplinary boards that could exclude residents who are most likely to suffer from police misconduct.
“We are here today to ensure that there is a public hearing and a transparent process that will allow community members and their voices to continue to be engaged,” Walther-Rodriguez said.
Del. Samuel Rosenberg, a Baltimore Democrat who co-chairs the AELR committee, said the panel hasn’t made a decision yet.
“We will review the regulations appropriately,” Rosenberg said.
A message was left with the Maryland Police Training and Standards Commission.
The police accountability boards were part of an extensive package of police reform legislation approved last year. The General Assembly, which is controlled by Democrats, prioritized reforms last year after nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis.