ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — The Maryland House of Delegates voted Tuesday to expand public access to records relating to police misconduct cases and to limit the use of no-knock police warrants.
The 88-46 vote to pass the measure that originated in the Senate marked another step in a larger effort, as the two chambers are working on finalizing an extensive package of police reform in the last week of the legislative session. The Senate would still have to sign off on some changes made by the House.
On Monday night, the House passed another Senate bill. It would create a unit in the attorney general’s office to investigate the death of a person caused by a police officer. The bill, which returns to the Senate to consider changes, also would prohibit law enforcement from buying surplus military equipment.
The House has now passed several Senate bills on police reform with a variety of amendments. The Senate, for its part, has passed an omnibus House measure, also with additions. The Senate named several members to a conference committee Tuesday to meet with House members to work on reconciling the differences on the high-profile issue before Monday's scheduled adjournment.
Lawmakers are weighing a repeal of job protections for police long criticized for impeding accountability in misconduct cases known as the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights. Lawmakers also are considering legislation to create a statewide use-of-force standard that bans chokeholds and a duty-to-intervene measure requiring an officer to make a reasonable effort to prevent use of excessive force.
Supporters of expanding public access to records about police disciplinary cases said greater transparency is needed to assure the public that complaints against police are taken seriously.
The bill is named “Anton’s Law” after 19-year-old Anton Black, who died in police custody in 2018 in a rural town on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Police footage of the incident shows officers pinned Black down for more than five minutes as they handcuffed him and shackled his legs as his body eventually went limp. One of the officers involved had nearly 30 use-of-force reports from his police career in Dover, Delaware.
Opponents criticized the measure for being too broad by opening records relating to allegations that end up being unsubstantiated.
Del. Jason Buckel, an Allegany County Republican, sought to change the bill so that records in administrative disciplinary cases would be expunged, if an officer is exonerated.
“I’m not upset with officers who have unfounded complaints against them," Buckel said. "I’m not upset with officers who try to do everything right and still had someone make an allegation.”
Supporters, who rejected the proposed change, cited the Black case as an example of how police with troubling backgrounds can move to another police department.
“This was precisely the issue in the Anton Black case, where you had a problem officer being transferred between departments and the full picture of that officer’s issues was not being presented to the hiring department," said Del. David Moon, a Montgomery County Democrat.
The bill also would restrict no-knock warrants. Under the bill, police could only use no-knock warrants between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m., except in an emergency.