Activists Rally in Annapolis for Increased Police Accountability - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Activists Rally in Annapolis for Increased Police Accountability

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - Maryland activists for civil rights and police reform urged a panel of lawmakers Thursday to take stronger action to increase police accountability, and they criticized lawmakers for not going far enough this year.
    
Supporters of reforms gathered in front of the statehouse before a panel assigned to consider proposals for legislation next year met to hear from them. The activists said they've grown weary of coming to the state capital to urge lawmakers to make changes. They cited the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore police custody in April as an example that police brutality is a serious problem that must be addressed.
    
"I am tired of coming down to Annapolis trying to convince lawmakers to do what is right by the citizens of the state of Maryland," said the Rev. Heber Brown, pastor of the Pleasant Hope Baptist Church in Baltimore. "I am tired of having to feel like you have to pull out another report, after another report, after more stats, after more figures, to try to convince people that something needs to be done."
    
During this year's 90-day legislative session, some of the same activists who came to Annapolis on Thursday had been pushing for greater accountability measures. At the time, they said protests around the nation against the killings of unarmed black men by police in New York and Ferguson, Missouri, showed it's time to take action in Maryland.
    
Lawmakers passed some measures this year. For example, a commission will develop a statewide policy for body cameras on police. Another law requires authorities to report information about deaths in police custody to the governor's office. Another bill requires law enforcement to record demographic information, including race, pertaining to traffic stops.
    
However, supporters of stronger laws were disappointed that other measures had failed by the time the session ended April 13. Less than a week later, Gray was dead. Shortly after the Baltimore riots in the aftermath of Gray's death, lawmakers formed the panel to explore legislation for next year's session.
    
One measure that failed to pass would have abolished a rule preventing a Maryland police officer suspected of a crime from being interrogated for up to 10 days after an incident. The bill also would have ended a requirement that claims of police brutality be filed within 90 days. Supporters of changing the law say the two rules in the state's Law Enforcement Officer Bill of Rights place added burdens on victims of police brutality, and activists called for those measures to be passed next year.
    
Activists also are asking that lawmakers enable local jurisdictions to make their own decisions about how to create effective civilian oversight of police.
    
David Rocah, a senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, told the panel that the status quo is not acceptable.
    
"We need significant reform in a great many areas," Rocah said.
    
The workgroup is focusing on police training, recruiting and hiring practices. It also is considering a statewide oversight panel for certain types of investigations. The panel also is reviewing the state's Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights, which critics say is an impediment to accountability.

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