Police Abuse

Washington Post Calls for Reform of Maryland LEO Bill of Rights, a 'Shield for Police Misbehavior'

Legislative panel created after Freddie Gray death looking at potential reforms.


A. Currell/flickr

The editorial board of the Washington Post called for reforms of Maryland's Law Enforcement Officers' Bill of Rights (LEOBR), a set of laws that provide police officers broad protections when they are the targets of civilian complaints, internal investigations, or potential prosecutions.

Maryland's LEOBR was passed in the 1970s, and was the first of its kind. Since then, the laws have been replicated across the country, making it extremely difficult to fire bad cops. The laws have been adopted by other state legislatures, and the kinds of privileges they afford cops have been similarly enshrined in many police union contracts. Earlier this month, activists from Black Lives Matter launched a website to target the most egregious of such contracts.

The Post calls for a "sensible package of reforms" to LEOBR that:

would eliminate or drastically reduce the so-called cooling-off period, which grants officers 10 days of silence — plenty of time to get their story straight with other officers or forensics — before they must start cooperating with internal affairs investigators. There is no coherent rationale for such a privilege; one or two days, which is time enough to hire a lawyer, would suffice.

At a bare minimum, new rules should also allow members of the public at least a year, rather than the 90 days now set by law, to bring brutality complaints; require officers to undergo regular psychological evaluations, which makes sense for a job that can involve episodes of extreme stress; and establish rules under which officers accused of wrongdoing can be questioned not only by trial boards consisting of fellow officers but also by civilian review boards.

Earlier this year, the legislature formed a working group to recommend police reforms. Things likes regular psychiatric testing became controversial. The Post called on the working group's proposals to "entail genuine reform, not watered-down half-measures designed to pass muster with the police unions that have long held sway in Annapolis." There have been disputes over whether the panel has heard too much from police officers and not enough from critics.

The Post also notes the privileges of LEOBR have been extended to corrections officers, providing this unsurprising but nevertheless depressing detail:

A 2013 FBI affidavit cited a similar state law covering corrections officers as blocking management efforts to impose discipline and regain control when, at the Baltimore jail a few years earlier, more than a dozen guards helped a gang of inmates to take charge of the facility and traffic in drugs, cellphones and sex.

The legislative panel is only looking at the LEOBR, not the corrections law. Members of the Maryland legislature, of course, are free to submit their own reform laws and don't have to defer their responsibilities to a panel even if they chose to do so. The working group, expected to make recommendations next year, came in response to the death in police custody of Freddie Gray last April. Six cops were charged in relation to the incident—the first trial ended in a hung jury.

NEXT: The Puzzling Persistence of Pee Tests

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  1. I’ll take a publication seriously when they demand the revocation of collective bargaining for anything not directly related to wages.

    1. I’ll take them seriously when they demand the revocation of legal requirements that businesses deal with unions involuntarily.

    2. How can cops collectively bargain there ways around laws? How have the courts allowed that?

      1. Because the courts are on Team Cop, that’s how.

      2. To expand a bit on what RC said – many, many judges are former prosecutors. Also, judges depend on cops for their business, and for their protection in the courtroom (how wrong is that?). Duly noted that courtroom security is generally done by sheriff’s offices at the local level, and that those municipalities may also have seperate police departments, but still.

  2. Not gonna happen. Historically, they only way to remove privileges from armed state agents is from their cold, dead hands.

  3. I’d give them the right to pee in a cup weekly.

    1. If cops aren’t going to be fired/convicted for what is a clear case of straight up murder, why would anything be done if they fail a piss test?

  4. There is no coherent rationale for such a privilege…


  5. re: The illo – Yo, fuck the FOP and the IAFF. Sorry, firefighters, I had thought better of you, but you’re making a big mistake casting your lot with the FOP.

  6. The Maryland Legislature is two-thirds Democrat in both houses, and the Democratic Party is dominated by police unions (and other public employee unions).

    I doubt the people of Maryland will ever get so upset that they’ll actually vote Republican, so I guess the only solution is to keep voting for the same Democrat politicians that are beholden to the police unions for their jobs–only this time with more feeling?

    There is no substitute for people wanting change, and things won’t change so long as politicians and district attorneys are beholden to the police unions for their jobs. Black Lives Matter should forget going after the politicians and protest the Fraternal Order of Police directly.

    Same thing in Chicago. Getting Rahm Emmanuel’s scalp isn’t about to change anything. Not so long as the next guy, the city council, and the prosecutors will all be beholden to the police union for their jobs.

    1. Getting Rahm Emmanuel’s scalp will actually make it worse. Rahm surprisingly showed a certain amount of mettle in dealing with local government’s intractable public employee issues, and all of his opponents as I recall were deep in the pocket of Big Labor.

      Getting Rahm Emmanuel’s scalp feels to me like the Egyptian Arab Spring, where your opponents sense weakness, use a wedge issue to throw out the guy in charge and replace him with someone who does what the government has always done, but even harder.

      1. I remember when he was taking on the teachers’ union.

        Regardless, it’s the same thing everywhere. Whenever prosecutors have the discretion to avoid prosecuting cops, they do so. Whenever they can’t avoid it, they take it to a grand jury.

        It’s just terrible to see people we know are genuinely being abused keep barking up the same tree. Getting rid of Rahm Emmanuel may make it worse, and it certainly won’t fix the problem–because having the right Democrats in charge isn’t the problem.

        Voting for the Democrat machine again is the problem. Watching BLM vote for Democrats again is like watching a battered wife bail her husband out again. For goodness’ sake, the people they’re voting for to solve their problems are the same ones that are shielding the police from accountability. They either have to start voting for another party or they have to strip the police unions from their position of power within the Democratic machine.

        The only Republican alderman on Chicago’s city council was given money to run and endorsed by the police, too. So, I’m not even sure someone who isn’t beholden to the police union can even get on the ballot there the way things stand now. There has to be a grass roots movement against the police union and their influence in politics and elections.

        1. The #BLM movement is ground zero for only putting 1 & 2 together to solve a problem. I doubt many of its individual members even see their own role in helping to create the problem they’re trying to fight.

        2. Whenever they can’t avoid it, they take it to a grand jury.

          Where their pitch seems to be “This cop has a strong defense, and I’m just too sorry a lawyer to beat it. Please don’t indict.”

        3. Voting for the Democrat machine again is the problem.

          Something a slight re-tooling of the “Wants More Government. More Government” meme might illustrate.

          1. Look, everybody in Maryland has good intentions, and a lot of stolen money from the rest of the country to paper over the constant failures.

  7. The Post calls for a “sensible package of reforms” to LEOBR that:

    I have it on good authority that if you pepper your argument with the words “reasonable” and “common sense” then no one can argue against your ideas.

  8. …establish rules under which officers accused of wrongdoing can be questioned not only by trial boards consisting of fellow officers but also by civilian review boards.

    Civilians being former and current law enforcement, because who else knows enough about the job to be qualified to judge?

  9. The Post calls for a “sensible package of reforms” to LEOBR that:

    Mend it, don’t end it?

    What a bunch of pussies.

    1. My guess is The Post doesn’t want to come off as anti-union.

  10. As a resident of the Free (Shit) State, I await any such attempt’s inevitable and complete failure to even make it out of committee.

      1. We should be grateful it was amended to expand the privileges and immunities of cops.

        1. Half of the state is public sector employees, a quarter might as well be, and the other quarter is people who resent the other 3/4 but don’t want to leave. There is not much of a constituency for reforming LEOBOR, never mind repealing it. Marylanders would sooner disarm their neighbors than reign in the cops.

          1. Let me clarify, by reign in I mean hold accountable for misdeeds. The FOP and IAFF are almost correct, in that the Baltimore city government is utterly corrupt and turned their backs on the taxpaying, law-abiding citizens of that city. But instead of resigning in protest or at least making efforts to demonstrate their sincerity and uprightness, the unions and fraternal organizations are more than happy to negotiate for better wages and ensure that they are well compensated while not doing any real police work and shielding their members from personal accountability.

            1. Thugs gonna thug, kbo. Its what they do. Its who they are.

            2. HALLELUJAH TO YOU!

      2. Huh. I guess they want a public execution.

  11. Billions of dollars spent on violent extremist police criminals filled with racist white-supremacist. The armed militias police unions committing mass murder and crying because they have been exposed. Now is the time to dissolve police unions and the FOP and arrest the leadership for there crimes against humanity.

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