Maryland lawmakers override vetoes on sweeping police reform

FILE - In this Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021, file photo, a Baltimore police cruiser is seen parked near a building while officers check on a call. A comprehensive package of police reform measures cleared the Maryland General Assembly on Wednesday, April 7, 2021 including repeal of police job protections long cited as a barricade to accountability. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)
FILE - In this Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021, file photo, a Baltimore police cruiser is seen parked near a building while officers check on a call. A comprehensive package of police reform measures cleared the Maryland General Assembly on Wednesday, April 7, 2021 including repeal of police job protections long cited as a barricade to accountability. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Maryland lawmakers voted Saturday to override Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s vetoes of three far-reaching police reform measures that supporters say are needed to increase accountability and restore public trust.

One of the measures repeals job protections in the police disciplinary process that critics say impede accountability. Maryland approved the nation’s first Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights in 1974, and about 20 states have adopted similar laws setting due process procedure for investigating police misconduct. Maryland is the first to repeal the law, replacing it with new procedures that give civilians a role in the police disciplinary process.

The Democrat-controlled General Assembly has been working on reforms for months, following nationwide protests against racial injustice that were fueled by the police custody death of George Floyd in Minnesota nearly one year ago.

“Last year, I attended and participated in multiple demonstrations of people demanding change — the young and the old, people of all races and walks of life," said Sen. Charles Sydnor, a Democrat who sponsored one of the measures. "With so many situations being thrust before our eyes, we could no longer deny what we see, and I thank my colleagues for believing their eyes and listening to the majority of Marylanders.”

Opponents said the measures went too far. The package includes provisions to increase the civil liability limit on lawsuits involving police from $400,000 to $890,000. An officer convicted of causing serious injury or death through excessive force would face 10 years in prison.

Sen. Robert Cassilly, a Republican, described the legislation as “anti-cop.”

“It allows for hindsight review of folks sitting in the easy chairs to judge people who made split-second decisions in volatile situations," when an officer fears for his or her life and the lives of others, Cassilly said.

Hogan also vetoed legislation with a new statewide use-of-force policy and mandated use of body cameras statewide by July 2025.