Lawmaker Spotlights Victims of Police Brutality in Push for Special Session

Del. Julian Ivey (D-Prince George's)

Akai Gurley

Rekia Boyd

Oscar Grant

Stephon Clark

John Lewis

Jonathan Ferrell

Clinton Allen

Rayshard Brooks

Samuel DuBose

Martese Johnson

Sean Bell

Ramarley Graham

Ryan Twyman

Abner Louima

Amadou Diallo

William Green

Aura Rosser

Sandra Bland

Korryn Gaines

Philando Castile

Walter Scott

Alton Sterling

Atatiana Jefferson

Eric Garner

Rodney King

Michael Brown

Tamir Rice

Every day, first-term Del. Julian Ivey (D-Prince George’s) tweets a call for the General Assembly to reconvene in a special session, each beginning the same way.

Every day, for as long as it takes, I will highlight the name of a victim of police brutality,” he writes.

Thursday marked Day 28.

“I hope I get a call right after we hang up telling us that it’s time for us to reconvene, but I don’t know how long that will take,” he told Maryland Matters in a phone interview this week. “It’s important that people look these victims in the eyes and see the faces and the names associated with them to see the humanity within these individuals.

Following the nationally highlighted deaths of George Floyd and Breona Taylor at the hands of police, Ivey petitioned Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) last month to convene a special session of the legislature “by or before July 31, 2020.” 

With just a week left until his deadline, Ivey has given no indication that he’ll stop pushing. But legislative leaders have been reluctant to return to the State House, and Hogan does not seem anxious to bring lawmakers back.

The scope of the young delegate’s concern breaches well beyond just police reform. His petition also noted an urgency to reconvene to legislate policy surrounding COVID-19 relief, education funding, transportation and gun policy — and his list has grown.

Ivey, who turns 25 next month, said that as he began to champion these issues, advocates and constituents began to reach out, asking him to research unfit labor conditions and the state’s looming housing crisis.

“It didn’t take long for me to look into those other issues and see just how dire of a position so many Marylanders are in,” he told Maryland Matters

“There’s so much that we as the legislators can do even when we’re not in session — we can send letters, we can make phone calls on behalf of other individuals or residents — but what so many Marylanders need is a legislative solution.”

Ivey said that, beyond his power to convene a special session, Hogan has the ability to enact policy through executive order, “but we have a governor in office who’s not willing to make these reforms.”

On June 16, House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County) petitioned Hogan to immediately enact reform surrounding police use of force policies in the state.  

Co-signed by all of the other 98 Democratic House members, Jones’ letter requested application of some of the Maryland Police Training and Standards Commission’s best practice recommendations via executive order, including:

  • Limiting police use of force practices to instances where the life of a civilian or officer is confronted with “imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury”
  • Requiring intervention when officers witness the unreasonable use of force
  • Banning the practice of shooting at moving vehicles unless they are weaponized

Many of these policies mirror legislation proposed by Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee Chairman William C. Smith Jr (D-Montgomery) in early June.

So far, the Hogan administration has made no indication that any use of force policy will be enacted on the governor’s behalf.

Ivey called the requests in Jones’ petition a “downpayment towards the overall policing accountability and brutality reforms” that he says need to be made during the 2021 legislative session, acknowledging that even if Hogan signs an executive order, it would have little to no power over local and municipal law enforcement.

“It’s not just about the State Police Department. It’s about … the small municipal police departments as well,” he said. “Even [those] … executive orders we asked him to sign — they don’t go far enough because they would not impact local jurisdictions, and oftentimes [it’s] the local police force that’s interacting with the community rather than state troopers.”

While his calls for a renewed special session have yet to cease, Ivey does admit he has concerns about reconvening in the midst of the pandemic.

“We have a lot of elders in our bodies here, and that’s not something to write off — it’s very serious — but we see other jurisdictions, other states, legislating through this pandemic,” he said.

And he’s correct. During a briefing of the House Workgroup to Address Police Reform and Accountability in Maryland last week, Amber Widgery, a senior policy specialist at the National Conference of State Legislatures told lawmakers that, since the suffocation of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer on May 25, 27 states and Washington, D.C., introduced over 300 pieces of policing-reform legislation — 35 of which have been enacted.

“Without COVID-19-related session delays and recess, only 17 states would have normally been in session after the events on May 25,” Widgery explained, indicating that at least 10 states convened special sessions.

Ivey said that the General Assembly has reached out to Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D) to explore whether or not the bodies can constitutionally meet in a hybrid or virtual setting. He’s eagerly awaiting Frosh’s determination, noting that U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), one of the victims of police brutality honored on his Twitter feed, was relentless in his pursuit of justice, as well.

Lewis, an iconic civil rights leader, died last week at the age of 80. 

“Everyone has put out so many positive statements about John Lewis and his life and his legacy, but really we know John Lewis because on Bloody Sunday he walked peacefully across the [Edmund Pettis] bridge and he allowed for himself and those around him to be beaten brutalized by police officers,” said Ivey.

Ivey asserted that while it’s important to honor Lewis in word, it’s imperative to do so in action.

“It’s time for us as legislators to get in some ‘good trouble,’” he said. “And that’s what this is about.”

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Hannah Gaskill
Hannah Gaskill received her master’s of journalism degree in December 2019 from the University of Maryland. She previously worked on the print layout design team at The Diamondback, reported on criminal justice in Maryland for Capital News Service and served as a production assistant for The Confluence — the daily news magazine on 90.5 WESA, Pittsburgh’s NPR member station. Gaskill has had bylines in The Baltimore Sun, The Washington Post and The Chicago Tribune, among other publications.Before pursuing journalism, she received her bachelor’s of fine art degree from Carnegie Mellon University in 2016. She grew up in Ocean City.