Maryland Struggles to Implement Police Oversight Law Amid Delays and Inconsistencies

Maryland's 2021 police accountability law has faced delays and inconsistencies in implementation, with many jurisdictions struggling to meet deadlines and clarify ambiguities. As of July 2022, roughly a quarter of Maryland's jurisdictions had failed to establish their police oversight systems, leading to significant consequences.

author-image
Olalekan Adigun
New Update
Maryland Struggles to Implement Police Oversight Law Amid Delays and Inconsistencies

Maryland Struggles to Implement Police Oversight Law Amid Delays and Inconsistencies

Three years after Maryland passed a sweepingpolice accountability law, the implementation of new oversight systems across the state has been plagued by delays, inconsistencies, and disagreements. The Maryland Police Accountability Act, enacted in 2021, mandated the creation of a three-tiered civilian oversight structure to handle misconduct complaints, review internal investigations, and issue discipline for police officers. However, the rollout has been far from smooth, with many jurisdictions struggling to meet deadlines and clarify ambiguities in the law.

Why this matters: The successful implementation of police accountability laws is vital for rebuilding trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve. If left unaddressed, the inconsistencies and delays in Maryland's rollout could undermine the effectiveness of these laws and perpetuate a cycle of mistrust and police misconduct. If left unaddressed, the inconsistencies and delays in Maryland's rollout could undermine the effectiveness of these laws and perpetuate a cycle of mistrust and police misconduct.

As of July 2022, the deadline set by the law, roughly a quarter of Maryland's jurisdictions had failed to establish their police oversight systems. Baltimore City, along with Dorchester, Cecil, and Kent Counties, did not hold their first meetings until 2023, months behind schedule. The delays have had significant consequences, as Joshua Harris, Chair of Baltimore City's Police Accountability Board, points out, "Those delays have come with consequences... If cases are not reviewed within a year and a day after they are submitted, whatever the police department's integrity bureau decides is basically final."

Inconsistencies in implementation have also arisen as administrators struggle with ambiguities in the law. In one county, three individuals who filed misconduct complaints found themselves facing counter-accusations of submitting false reports and wasting police resources. The law currently lacks protections for complainants, leaving them vulnerable to retaliation. Judge Richard Collins expressed his concern about the potential chilling effect on complaints, stating,"I have never seen a case where police bring a criminal charge against a person that wanted to be heard on their view of police conduct... I believe that it would have the effect of telling people don't complain against the police because they might decide to make a criminal investigation of your differing opinions as to the conduct of these officers."

Despite the challenges, the Maryland General Assembly has shown little inclination to revisit the law, leaving local governments to contend with the complexities on their own. Maryland House Majority Leader David Moon (D-Montgomery County) stated,"If there are real issues, of course, the state can step in to shed light, but we are still in the early stages of allowing the implementation to flow through local governments. "He added,"We decided to force the implementation process along, despite delays and hiccups."

As jurisdictions continue to struggle with the ambiguities of the Maryland Police Accountability Act, the consequences of delays and inconsistencies in implementation could have far-reaching implications for police accountability and public trust in law enforcement. The challenges faced highlight the importance of clear legislation and consistent oversight. It remains uncertain whether the state will intervene to provide further guidance or if local governments will be left to tackle the complexities independently.

Key Takeaways

  • Maryland's police accountability law has been plagued by delays and inconsistencies.
  • A quarter of jurisdictions failed to establish oversight systems by the July 2022 deadline.
  • Delays have significant consequences, including making police decisions final.
  • Inconsistencies in implementation leave complainants vulnerable to retaliation.
  • The state has shown little inclination to revisit the law, leaving local governments to contend with complexities.