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How Black Female Lawmakers Led Maryland’s Historic Effort to Transform Policing

Source:The Washington Post

Maryland’s Senate president told the House speaker that the legislature couldn’t wait any longer. Lawmakers should pass the police-accountability bills quickly, he said, so they’d have enough time to override expected vetoes from Gov. Larry Hogan (R).

But after 10 months of work on the issue and nationwide protests, House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County) wasn’t having it.

She told Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) that she wanted the policing overhaul finished, too, but she wanted it done right. With a mural of Harriett Tubman on the wall to her left, Jones — the first Black person and first woman to hold her leadership position in Maryland — rose from her wingback chair and told Ferguson to leave her office.

The showdown this month set in motion last-minute changes to legislation that put Maryland at the forefront of the national debate on policing. Among other things, lawmakers gave civilians a greater role in deciding police disciplinary cases, propelling sweeping change in a state long known for its strong officer protections.

Maryland, the first state to enact a Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights, on April 10 became the first state to get rid of the decades-old statute, which allowed officers to wait five days before cooperating with internal misconduct inquiries, scrubbed records of complaints after a certain period and ensured that only officers — not civilians — handled complaints about police.

Lawmakers also enacted legislation to mandate body cameras, limit the use of no-knock warrants, impose a statewide use-of-force standard that includes a criminal penalty of up to 10 years in prison for excessive force, and allow certain police complaints to be made public.

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