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.”
Day TWENTY-THREE of my call for a special session of the Maryland General Assembly to address police brutality.
Every day, for as long as it takes, I will highlight the name of a victim of police brutality.
Today the name is JOHN LEWIS.
REST IN POWER pic.twitter.com/7KrALgDmXp
— Delegate Julian Ivey (@JulianiveyPG) July 18, 2020
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.”