An MML-supported bill allowing municipalities to create police accountability boards and administrative charging committees to handle important aspects of police officer discipline had a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee last week.
A law that passed the Maryland General Assembly in 2021, which is set to go into effect July 1 of this year, mandates that counties create police accountability boards and administrative charging committees as part of a new police officer disciplinary framework. The accountability boards must, among other things, appoint civilian members to charging committees and trials boards. These boards and their membership are created by the county legislative body and should reflect the diversity of the county. The new law also mandates counties have a charging committee tasked with reviewing investigation materials collected in response to a complaint against an officer, determine if disciplinary action should be taken, and what that action should be. The charging committee will review complaints against officers from all police departments in the county, including municipal officers. The accountability board and county elected officials determine the membership of the charging committee
In this new framework, the counties have the responsibility to create these bodies even though they are to hear complaints against municipal officers. There are several problems with this arrangement from the municipal perspective:
- Municipal input from residents and elected officials is lost in this new process.
- The complaint process has the likelihood of backlog and delay since one charging committee is tasked with reviewing complaints against all officers from all departments in the county.
- This framework essentially establishes county oversight of independent municipal services which creates an awkward scenario rarely seen in the State.
HB 1184, supported by MML, grants authority to municipalities to establish their own accountability boards and charging committees in the same manner as currently constructed for the counties. Should a municipality choose not to establish their own board and committee, their police department would remain under the current structure. For additional questions, please contact Bill Jorch: firstname.lastname@example.org