Maryland Panel Makes Police Accountability Recommendations - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Maryland Panel Makes Police Accountability Recommendations

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(Photo: CBS) (Photo: CBS)

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP/WBOC)- A Maryland panel voted Monday to extend the time residents can file a complaint against law enforcement officers from 90 days to a year and a day.
    
The recommendation is one of about 20 being made to state lawmakers.
    
The panel was created by legislative leaders in May after the Baltimore riots that followed Freddie Gray's death from injuries in police custody. The bipartisan panel examined police training, recruiting and hiring practices. It also reviewed the state's Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights, a framework of due process rights for police officers. Maryland became the first state to approve such a bill of rights in the 1970s.

Dorchester County Sheriff James Phillips says the extension of the complaint period will cause problems.

"If somebody can't figure out in 90 days if they have been wronged by a police officer, they certainly can't figure it out in a year and a day.  That's just going to pad the pockets of an attorney who makes his life suing police departments," said Phillips.

Thomas Hurley, president of the Cambridge Fraternal Order of Police, agrees.

"If you wait a year to complain about for instance a cell phone harassment, some of those records are gone after six months.  There's a time frame for everything, and this has worked for 40 years," said Hurley.

The panel also wants to limit the time a law enforcement officer can take to retain an attorney for internal investigations from 10 days to five days. Advocates for stronger police accountability measures say the 10-day period prevents an officer under investigation from being interrogated for up to 10 days after an alleged incident.

Phillips says that 10 day period is important though.

"Once they give that statement, the statement is going to be open to attack from then on once it's on paper.  I think giving an officer that's been involved in a dramatic incident up to ten days to become emotionally and mentally ready to give a statement is not too much to ask," said Phillips.

The recommendations are to be considered in the upcoming legislative session, which begins Wednesday.
    
Other recommendations approved by the panel include:
    
-Requiring all law enforcement agencies in the state to open their administrative Law Enforcement Officer Bill of Rights hearing board proceedings to the public.
    
-Creating a uniform process for filing complaints in all state jurisdictions and publishing them on department websites.
    
-Eliminating a requirement that a complaint alleging excessive force must be notarized. It would be replaced by a requirement that the person making the complaint sign it under the penalty of perjury.
    
-Creating whistleblower protections to protect officers who participate in investigations.
    
-Requiring law enforcement agencies to complete a use of force report by the end of a shift.
    
-Establishing an independent Maryland Police Training and Standards Commission to focus on best practices, standards and training.
    
About half of the recommendations relate to suggestions regarding the new commission, including representation by state and local officials as well as local law enforcement administrators. The panel also recommended that the commission develop standards for psychological evaluation after traumatic incidents, as well as periodic mental health counseling.

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