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Maryland passes historic police reforms, overturning governor’s vetoes

Maryland on Saturday became the first state in the country to repeal its powerful law enforcement officer bill of rights after the state’s Democratic-majority legislature overturned Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s vetoes on three bills historical law on police accountability.

Hogan announced on Friday that he was vetoing the three bills – which are part of a package of five police reform measures adopted by state lawmakers earlier in the week. The governor said he would allow two of the bills to become law without his signature, but said the others “would further erode police morale, community relations and public confidence.”

But Democrats, who hold veto-proof majorities in both the State House and the Senate, have vowed to override Hogan’s vetoes – a promise they quickly kept, lawmakers have said. bringing together Friday evening and Saturday to make it happen.

One of Hogan’s vetoes was on a bill to repeal and replace the Law Enforcement Officer Bill of Rights (LEOBR), which governs the disciplinary process for police officers. Critics have called LEOBR an “obstacle” to police accountability. A new procedure for disciplining officers convicted of wrongdoing – a procedure that will involve the contribution of police services and civilians – will now replace the Bill of Rights. Currently, at least 20 states have versions of a Police Bill of Rights.

Bills passed on Saturday include several other police accountability measures, such as a statewide use of force policy, expanding public access to certain police disciplinary records , tougher penalties for excessive use of force, new limits on no-hit warrants, and a statewide body camera warrant.

Additionally, the two laws Hogan chose not to veto include one that gives Baltimore voters the ability to decide whether the city should take full control of the Baltimore Police Department, which is a state agency. since 1860.

The other bill authorized by Hogan prohibits police departments from acquiring surplus military equipment and creates an independent unit within the state attorney general’s office to investigate deaths involving the police.

Democratic lawmakers in Maryland – a state that has come under scrutiny in recent years for its police accountability issues – hailed the police reform package as “transformative” and as a step towards “l ‘equality”.

Bill Ferguson, President of the State Senate, called it “one of the most important and transformative law enforcement reform packages in the country, and certainly, most importantly, in the country. the history of Maryland, ”The Washington Post reported.

Friday, Del. Vanessa Atterbeary (D-Howard) rebuffed some Republican lawmakers’ claim that the bills are “anti-cops.”

“This is not anti-police legislation. This is equality and fairness legislation, ”Atterbeary said, adding,“ This has been painstakingly put in place for blacks and Maroons in our state. It is time for law enforcement officers to pay the consequences. ”

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