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Maryland speaker makes case during House Judiciary Committee hearing for policing overhaul

A package of policing overhauls backed by Maryland House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones would repeal the state’s Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights, ban the use of no-knock search warrants, create an independent agency to investigate police shootings, and outline a statewide use-of-force policy.

The legislation, crafted by a bipartisan work group Jones formed in late May amid protests over the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, would also ban the use of chokeholds by police and require every Maryland law enforcement agency to adopt body-worn cameras by 2025. It’s among a number of bills that would return the Baltimore Police Department to full local control.

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Jones, a Baltimore County Democrat, told fellow lawmakers Tuesday in a livestreamed House Judiciary Committee hearing that her sweeping legislation would “take significant steps forward to reform the way we police in Maryland.”

“I am not somebody who hates the police, but over the years I’ve had my own experiences with law enforcement, as have my brothers and my two sons,” Jones said, “and this has called into question the way that we as a state and as a society have empowered law enforcement officers to execute their duties.”

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Marilyn Mosby and Aisha Braveboy, the state’s attorneys in Baltimore City and Prince George’s County, respectively, were among the dozens of supporters who spoke in favor of the package. Mosby argued that the changes would help dismantle systems “intentionally constructed to prevent police accountability” and, by repealing the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights, would remove a legal barrier that “for years tied the hands of the police department from being able to rid themselves of problematic officers.”

Baltimore activist DeRay Mckesson and a trio of NFL players from the Washington Football Team — defensive end Chase Young, wide receiver Dontrelle Inman and long snapper Nick Sundberg — were also among those speaking in favor.

Other top law enforcement officials signaled more qualified support. Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison, Bowie Police Chief John Nesky and Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger all praised portions of the package but urged a number of amendments.

So, too, did the Fraternal Order of Police, the dominant union for law enforcement officers, which in the past has staunchly opposed some similar proposals, including changes to the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights, a state law that outlines a set of job protections and rights for police officers accused of misconduct or facing potential discipline.

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Clyde Boatwright, an officer with the Baltimore City School Police and the union’s statewide president, called parts of Jones’ bill “great” and suggested it could serve “as a framework to build up to what we’d like to see.”

Perhaps the sharpest criticism Tuesday came from advocates who have fought for years for some of the provisions Jones is pushing, including the ACLU of Maryland, which are instead supporting a number of separate police reform proposals in the General Assembly. David Rocah, that group’s senior counsel, suggested Jones’ bill didn’t go far enough in fundamentally “re-imaging” the disciplinary process for police officers in Maryland.

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