More than 100 Baltimore-area activists traveled to the state’s capital to mark Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday and demand reform of the Maryland police bill of rights and civilian oversight
PROTESTERS: Black lives matter! Black lives matter! JAISAL NOOR, TRNN PRODUCER: On Thursday, January 15, more than 100 Baltimore activists rallied in the state’s capital, Annapolis, as part of a national day of action against police brutality and to mark Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday. DAYVON LOVE, DIRECTOR, RESEARCH AND PUBLIC POLICY, LEADERS OF A BEAUTIFUL STRUGGLE: A lot of people don’t understand that King was someone who challenged all forms of injustice, all forms of institutional racism, white supremacy, militarism, challenged issues of poverty. So this demonstration is really in the spirit of Dr. King. NOOR: Similar actions were held in New York, Ferguson, Miami, among other cities. PROTESTERS: Black lives matter! Black lives matter! NOOR: The Annapolis protest also coincided with the first day of Maryland’s legislative session. Activists attended a meeting of the Judiciary Committee and said they would continue to attend such meetings, where they avowed to push for key changes to legislation they say prevents true civilian oversight of police and allows law enforcement to act with impunity. JILL P. CARTER, MARYLAND DELEGATE (D-41): We are asking the legislature, and specifically the House Judiciary Committee, to make necessary changes for justice and fairness and to end police brutality, and to completely end extrajudicial killings. So we need to reform the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights and make a number of other changes. And so it’s going to be incumbent upon us to do that. LOVE: And then the second legislative item is strengthening civilian review board. Currently, as it’s constituted, it can only give recommendations to the commissioner, but the commissioner isn’t obligated to take on those recommendations. DAVID ROCAH, SENIOR ACLU STAFF ATTORNEY: There are two key provisions that prevent civilian oversight. One is that all investigations have to be conducted by sworn law enforcement personnel so it prevents the outside investigators from a civilian review board from conducting the investigations. And then, two, no meaningful discipline can be imposed, except by a trial board, which is, again, composed of fellow officers, sworn law enforcement officers. NOOR: Many unions have come out and said they oppose changes to this law. J. WYNDAL GORDAN, ATTORNEY: I know the police union is against it, so it’s our job to either convince them are convince our legislators that what we have to say about the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights is very important. And it’s not only important to the citizenry, but it’s also important to those good police officers who go out there every day and do the job that we expect them to do, as opposed to protection or cover of bad police officers. What we’ve seen with the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights is that it’s been abused and used to protect those who really should be least entitled to their rights. NOOR: Over the past months, Baltimore has witnessed several high-profile incidents of police brutality, and a Sun investigation last year exposed the city has paid out almost $6 million in recent years to quietly settle brutality claims, often against ordinary citizens, and without holding the officers accountable. MARK PUENTE, JOURNALIST, THE BALTIMORE SUN: They weren’t men or women on the corner selling drugs. They weren’t people breaking into houses or having a gunfight. Eighty-seven-year-old lady calls police because her grandson was shot. A pregnant accountant calls because she witnessed a beating. So you’ve really got to wonder: are those cases not being reported if something happens to those folks? NOOR: Activists later rallied in Baltimore and took part in a Real News-hosted police violence and militarization town hall. The Real News will continue to follow developments in this story. This is Jaisal Noor.
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