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Maryland lawmakers call on governor to order police reforms

June 16, 2020 GMT

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — All 99 Democrats in Maryland’s House of Delegates called Tuesday on Gov. Larry Hogan to immediately implement police reform measures by executive order.

House Speaker Adrienne Jones and the other 98 Democrats in the 141-member House urged the Republican governor in a letter to implement a variety of reforms, including a ban on the use of chokeholds.

“The past three weeks have exposed what some of us have known for years: that enforcement of our laws has not yielded equal justice for all Marylanders. Policing in our country is broken,” the letter to the governor said.

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Protests erupted in cities around the country after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last month. Floyd, an African American, died after a white police officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for several minutes even after he stopped moving and pleading for air.

The lawmakers noted progress on reforms in Maryland has taken place in recent years with the governor’s support, but added those are not enough.

Shareese DeLeaver-Churchill, a spokeswoman for Hogan, said in a statement that the administration will give the matter careful consideration.

“While several of these policies are already implemented by our state police agencies, we will certainly give thoughtful consideration to the Speaker’s letter, as well as the conclusions and recommendations of the workgroup she has established to examine these serious issues,” DeLeaver-Churchill said.

The letter calls for requiring that deadly force be used only to stop an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury to the officer or a citizen. It also says police officers must be required to intervene if they see another officer using unnecessary force.

The lawmakers say an early warning system should be implemented to identify incidents involving use of force and immediately retrain the officer involved. A ban on police shooting at vehicles also is being urged, as well as requiring police in state law enforcement agencies to sign an affirmative written sanctity of life pledge.

Lawmakers point out that the requests reflect existing best practice recommendations by the Maryland Police Training and Standards Commission, but are not required among policing agencies.

Late last month, the speaker announced that a group of legislators will address issues concerning police accountability. The interim workgroup will start meeting this summer and make recommendations for next year’s legislative session.

In the Maryland Senate, which also is controlled by Democrats, the chairman of the Judicial Proceedings Committee also has proposed a package of legislation for police reforms. Sen. Will Smith’s proposals include banning chokeholds, requiring de-escalation techniques and exhausting all means before shooting, as well as other reforms.

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