Speaker Creates Police Accountability Workgroup in the House

House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County) presides over the last day of the 2020 General Assembly session. Photo by Danielle E. Gaines

Maryland Speaker of the House Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County) and House Judiciary Chairman Luke H. Clippinger (D-Baltimore City) said Saturday that they were forming the Workgroup to Address Police Reform and Accountability in Maryland, which will begin meeting in the weeks ahead.

The announcement comes in the wake of another high-profile police killing of an unarmed black man this week in Minneapolis — which has sparked angry protests from coast to coast, including in Baltimore.

“Policing in America is broken. While we have taken a number of positive steps in Maryland, we can’t be satisfied until every citizen has confidence in their police department,” Jones said in a statement. “As the mother of two sons, accountability in policing is not just philosophical, it is personal.”

During the shortened 2020 legislative session, Jones told colleagues she was committed to working on issues around use of force and the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights. House leaders said the events around the country this week have expedited the timeframe for this work to begin this summer instead of in the fall.

The House workgroup will be launching as the Commission to Restore Trust in Policing, created by legislation in 2018 to focus on ways of reforming the Baltimore City Police Department after the Gun Trace Task Force corruption probe, is set to complete its work at the end of this year. That non-legislative group is led by Alexander Williams Jr., a retired federal judge.

“We have done important work in Maryland over the last several years, but it isn’t enough,” Clippinger said. “We are seeing record levels of crime in Baltimore City, at the same time that the Baltimore Police Department is under a federal consent decree. I am hoping to see recommendations for tangible reform that restores trust and helps communities build real relationships with the law enforcement that serve them.”

During this year’s legislative session, Clippinger introduced a bill to improve disclosure of police records, but it didn’t get a full airing once the session ended three weeks early.

The new workgroup will be chaired by Del. Vanessa Atterbeary (D-Howard), the Judiciary Committee vice chairwoman.

“As the mother of three young children, two of whom are boys, issues of police trust and accountability remain in the forefront of my mind each day,” she said in a statement. “The events around the country this week have underscored that we cannot wait another day. We need structural reform ideas from the community and law enforcement to fix this problem in a collaborative way.”

 According to Jones’ office, the workgroup will:

· Review policies and procedures related to the investigations of police misconduct, including Maryland’s Law Enforcement Bill of Rights statute;

· Determine the viability of uniform statewide use of force policies and arrest procedures;

· Review the use of body cameras and disclosure of body camera footage; and

· Identify national best practices of independent prosecution of law-enforcement related crimes.

The workgroup will begin meeting this summer and will be tasked with making recommendations for the 2021 legislative session.

Members appointed to the workgroup are:

· Speaker Pro Tem Sheree Sample-Hughes (D-Middle Shore)

· Minority Whip Kathy Szeliga (R-Baltimore County)

· Assistant Majority Leader Wanika Fisher (D-Prince George’s)

· Vice Chair of Appropriations Michael Jackson (D-Prince George’s)

· Black Caucus Chair Darryl Barnes (D-Prince George’s)

· Criminal Justice Subcommittee Chair David Moon (D-Montgomery)

· Government Operations Subcommittee Chair Samuel I. Rosenberg (D-Baltimore City)

· Del. Gabriel Acevero (D-Montgomery)

· Del. Curt Anderson (D-Baltimore City)

· Del. Jason Buckel (R-Allegany)

· Del. Debra Davis (D-Charles)

· Del. Mike Malone (R-Anne Arundel)

· Del. Susan McComas (R-Harford)

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Josh Kurtz
Co-founder and Editor Josh Kurtz is the leading chronicler of Maryland politics and government. He began covering the State House in 1995 for The Gazette newspapers, and has been writing about state and local politics ever since. He later became an editor at Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, and spent eight years at E&E News, an online subscription-only publisher of news websites covering energy and environmental issues. For seven of those years, he led a staff of 20 reporters at E&E Daily, which covers energy and environmental policy on Capitol Hill and in national politics. For 6 1/2 years he wrote a weekly column on state politics for Center Maryland and has written for several other Maryland publications as well. Kurtz has given speeches and appeared on TV and radio shows about Maryland politics through the years.