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Sen. Lisa Gladden says lawmakers must not forget low-income residents when addressing police accountability issues during the General Assembly session. ‘What the police do is a tough job, but by the same token it isn’t more tough than living on North Avenue,’ she says. (File photo)

Gladden urges police-focused colleagues to remember the poor

ANNAPOLIS – The Maryland General Assembly must not forget low-income city residents in the coming debates over legislation addressing police accountability in the aftermath of Freddie Gray’s death, a senior member of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee said Wednesday.

Police, unlike the urban poor, have lobbyists, such as the Fraternal Order of Police, to protect their interests in Annapolis, said Sen. Lisa A. Gladden, the committee’s vice chair.

“You have got to make sure that the rights of the people are equal to the rights of the police,” said Gladden, a Baltimore Democrat. “What the police do is a tough job, but by the same token it isn’t more tough than living on North Avenue.”

Gladden’s comments on the first day of the General Assembly’s 2016 session followed a legislative panel’s vote Monday on about 20 recommendations for making police more accountable and their internal disciplinary proceedings more public.

The Public Safety and Policing Work Group called for reducing from 10 days to five days the time a police officer has to retain an attorney for internal investigations. The 10-day span, called for under the state’s current Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights, has been criticized as needlessly delaying the time before which an officer under investigation can be questioned.

The group of 20 legislators also called for the extending from 90 days to a year and a day the time in which residents can file a complaint against a police officer.

The recommendations will result in “a plethora of police bills” being introduced this session, in light of Gray’s death and the ensuing riots in Baltimore. Gladden said. Many, if not all of those bills, will be referred to the Judicial Proceedings Committee and the House Judiciary Committee.

“I think it’s going to be ‘public safety number one,’” Gladden said, referring to the General Assembly’s priorities this session. “Everyone wants to do stuff.”

The work group also called for law enforcement agencies to open their administrative LEOBR hearing proceedings to the public; for creating a uniform process for filing complaints; for eliminating the requirement that complaints alleging excessive force be notarized rather than simply signed under penalty of perjury; for creating whistleblower protection for officers who participate in investigations; for requiring police agencies to complete a use of force report by the end of a shift; and for establishing an independent Maryland Police Training and Standards Commission to focus on best practices, standards and training.

The group is chaired by state Sen. Catherine Pugh and Del. Curtis Anderson, both Baltimore Democrats.

Gray died in April while in police custody.  Six police officers have been criminally charged in Gray’s death. The first trial, of Officer William Porter, ended in a hung jury last month.

The second trial, of Officer Caesar Goodson, has been delayed until a state appellate court determines whether Porter can be compelled to testify at the trial while his retrial is still pending.