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Lawmakers, Advocates Make Last-Ditch Push to Pass ‘Anton’s Law’

A freshman lawmaker frustrated with the lack of action on a police transparency bill said he, Sen. Jill P. Carter (D-Baltimore City) and other supporters will hold a news conference next week to demand that leadership schedule a vote on legislation known as Anton’s Law.

“We are demanding a vote on Anton’s Law from leadership of the Judicial Proceedings Committee and leadership from the House and Senate,” said Del. Gabriel Acevero (D-Montgomery), the House bill sponsor. “It is time for them now to use their position to deliver on issues that matters to communities of color.”

The bill would require the Maryland Police Training and Standards Commission to develop a uniform citizen complaint process when a police officer has been involved in the death of a civilian. The legislation would allow any citizen filing a complaint against a police officer to receive a copy of the investigative file following the conclusion of the investigation, as well as copies of any prior complaints filed against the police officer in question.

Acevero approached Anton Black’s family about the legislation after he heard about their struggles to receive timely information from law enforcement officials following Black’s death last September. Black, a 19-year-old youth from Greensboro, died in police custody after being chased by three officers and a civilian following an emergency call saying the teenager had a younger boy in a chokehold.

The case has caused a furor on the Eastern Shore after the local state’s attorney declined to indict any of the officers who had chased Black, and the release of subsequent information showing that one of the officers had resigned from his prior job in Dover, Del., amid allegations that he had brutalized some of the people he apprehended.

Anton’s Law has not passed in either legislative chamber this session, which makes it difficult to advance in the final two weeks of the 2019 legislative session. However, Senate Judicial Proceedings Chair Robert A. Zirkin (D-Baltimore County) will hold a hearing on the Senate version of the bill at noon on Tuesday – potentially breathing a little life into its prospects for advancement.

The news conference is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Tuesday near the Miller Senate Office building in Annapolis. Acevero, Carter and other members of the Legislative Black Caucus are expected to attend, along with Black’s family, members of the Coalition for Justice for Anton Black, and representatives of the Maryland State Conference of the NAACP and the ACLU of Maryland.

A related bill – the Law Enforcement Trust and Transparency Act – would require officer-involved deaths to be investigated by an independent entity established outside of the involved law enforcement officer’s jurisdiction. The House sponsor, Del. Emily Shetty (D-Montgomery) said the bill is not destined to advance this legislation session.

“This is a really big transformational effort that I think we did not expect to pass in the first year of introduction,” Shetty said. “My plan is to work with Sen. Carter and advocates to strengthen the language and bring it back next year and see what we can do.”

Glynis Kazanjian is a freelance writer. She can be reached at [email protected]