House and Senate committees began holding meetings to reconcile the differences in their police reform packages Thursday, with the intention of convening a conference committee in the near future.
The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee held a work session to parse out the major differences between the package they passed and House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones’ omnibus policing bill.
“This is all about just getting a base-level understanding of how they differ and what they did,” said Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee Chairman William C. Smith Jr. (D-Montgomery). “Internalize this, draft up questions [and] start thinking about what you’d like to see a final product,” he told his committee.[Read Maryland Matters’ breakdown of the policing packages here.]
Sen. Michael A. Jackson (D-Prince George’s), a former delegate who served on both committees during the drafting of the reform bills, expressed a preference for the Judicial Proceedings Committee’s package over what came out of the House Workgroup to Address Police Reform and Accountability in Maryland.
Jackson, a former Prince George’s County sheriff, also worried that his colleagues in the Judiciary Committee won’t budge on amendments to the policies they drafted, and that the committees won’t be able to reach any common ground.
“I can tell you, having sat through the [House workgroup]: I’ll be interested to see what my colleagues say, but I think we put together a product that everybody gave [something to],” he told his committee members. “And this product from the House — I know for a fact because I sat through those hearings and I sat on that workgroup — there was no giving there, and there was certainly no input from anybody from the profession, i.e. me.”
Jackson continued to express his concerns later in the committee’s work session.
“I’m gonna say this one last time: The House folks want to get rid of policing, down to the mere thing of what [officers] actually need. And when they get to what they need, it’s only [available] when they need it,” he asserted. “So that’s the mindset of what [the House Workgroup] did.”
“It was the worst workgroup I’ve ever served on. I hope this is on record,” Jackson said. “I don’t know where we’re gonna find a compromise here.”
House Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Vanessa E. Atterbeary (D-Howard), who chaired the House Workgroup to Address Police Reform and Accountability in Maryland, responded to Jackson’s comments Friday morning.
“It’s unfortunate Senator Jackson feels that way but he needs to remember that while he is no longer a member of the House, he still has to work with us and comments like that preclude finding common ground,” Atterbeary told Maryland Matters in a text on Friday. “Because the Workgroup outcome was not what he wanted, does not mean he should disrespect the process, the House and its members.”
“This comment is unfortunate all the way around.”
The House Judiciary Committee held hearings Thursday for all nine pieces of legislation that came out of the Senate. Several witnesses that appeared before the House committee had also testified before its members in some form over the last nine months.
“On the ninth of February, this committee heard 237” witnesses testify on the Speaker’s policing package and her bill to reform the Maryland Public Information Act, House Judiciary Chairman Luke H. Clippinger (D-Baltimore City) said at the start of the hearing. “We had a workgroup that met from about the middle of June all the way through to the start of the session with regard to this issue and took public input the entire time. And the [House Judiciary Committee’s] Public Safety Subcommittee heard from all parties regarding these issues, and heard in great detail from the parties regarding these issues.”
The House Judiciary Committee will begin voting on the Senate package Friday.
The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee will continue discussing the House bill at a work session on Friday.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include comment from House Judiciary Committee Vice Chair Vanessa Atterbeary.