ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Lawmakers in the Maryland General Assembly are working around the clock to address an issue that they say is long overdue when it comes to addressing the need for more transparency from police departments.
“There should be an opportunity to change legislation so it’s just automatic to provide the level of transparency. And it would also provide protections for law-enforcement officers as well,” said Delegate Sheree Sample-Hughes (D-District 37A). Under House Bill 1221, complaints about officer-involved shootings or serious injuries sustained from an officer would be available as public information regardless if those complaints were found to be credible or not.
“This is a great opportunity to be more transparent And also to be able to be rich to respond to certain complaints that are brought against officers,” said Salisbury Police Department Chief, Barbara Duncan. And while the bill is being supported by some legislators and police departments, others don’t quite agree with the proposal.
“I feel that there needs to be a process first and then if that person or that officer or whatever is found in the wrong, then yes there’s some information that needs to move forward,” said Delegate Wayne Hartman (R-District 38C). However, there would be a line drawn between exactly what information would be released. Complaints about things like sexual harassment, discrimination- and dishonesty would only become available if they were found to be true.
“These are individuals who still are serving the public and they have families and reputations, and that should remain intact,” said Chief Duncan. But despite this, many say any step towards getting some type of transparency from law enforcement is a step in the right direction. “This is an opportunity to disclose that information, and rightfully so, and so to that end, this is something that’s necessary,” said Delegate Sample-Hughes.
HB 1221 had its first hearing in the House Judiciary Committee on March 3rd and is expected to have a couple of amendments made to it before its brought before the committee again. The bill has also been cross-filed in the Senate.