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Maryland Police Watchdog System Off To A Slow Start

Three years after state lawmakers celebrated the passage of the Maryland Police Accountability Act, the rollout of the new police oversight systems has been slow, inconsistent and rife with disagreements about how to implement the new oversight process — challenges that frustrate critics and administrators alike, News From The States reports. The Maryland General Assembly has shown little appetite for revisiting the law, leaving many of the unresolved questions about the new police oversight systems in the hands of local governments. A Capital News Service investigation found that a quarter of Maryland jurisdictions did not get their police oversight systems up and running before the July 2022 deadlines set by state lawmakers. The new oversight bodies in Baltimore City, along with Dorchester, Cecil and Kent Counties, did not meet until 2023. Even in jurisdictions met the deadline, some administrators have struggled to navigate ambiguities in the law. In one county, three people who submitted misconduct complaints later had to defend themselves in court against counter-accusations that they had submitted false reports and wasted police resources.


The 2021 accountability law outlined a three-tiered police oversight system that theoretically overhauled the state’s long-standing rules for police misconduct investigations and gave civilian bodies the authority to receive misconduct complaints, review police internal investigations and impose discipline. The reforms were the most prominent contribution by Maryland lawmakers to a wave of police oversight reforms nationwide after the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer a year earlier. Maryland House Majority Leader David Moon was a member of the Maryland General Assembly’s police reform and accountability work group and a leading voice of support for the law. He says state lawmakers generally expect local governments to be proactive in making the new police oversight systems work. “If there are real issues, of course, the state can step in for clarification, but we are essentially still in the early stages of allowing the implementation to flow through local governments,” Moon said. Police Accountability Boards, or PABs, form the foundation of the new system. The boards are responsible for receiving civilian complaints and passing them to the appropriate law enforcement agency for an internal investigation.

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