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Editorial Advisory Board: Baltimore County and police reforms

On October 5, 2020, the SMART Policing Act was passed during Baltimore County Council’s legislative session. The SMART Policing Act, which stands for Strengthening, Modernization, Accountability, Reform and Transparency, was first introduced by Councilman Todd Crandall and was passed by a 6-1 vote.

The act bans  the use of all neck restraints and chokeholds, unless the officer’s life is in jeopardy, mandates annual de-escalation training along with implicit bias and use of force training and requires officers to intervene when fellow officers use excessive force. The bill was likely introduced in the wake of protest sparked by the murder of George Floyd.

After the death of Floyd, citizens across Maryland and the nation voiced the need for police accountability and reform through protest, letters, and legislative testimony. Many have even called for defunding police departments altogether. While defunding the police has not been introduced in Maryland, Baltimore County has certainly taken a significant step in the right direction to ensure that citizens are protected against police brutality, excessive use, and other bias and racist acts.

While the act passed by Baltimore County is notable and necessary, other measures could be added to the bill to further protect citizens. For example, in light of the execution of Breonna Taylor in her own home, this act and other bills should include eliminating “no knock” warrants accept in extreme situations where a person’s life may be in jeopardy.

In the case of Taylor, the police allegedly entered her home unannounced and when Taylor’s boyfriend thought that the house was being invaded, he fired his weapon and the police returned fire, killing her. If the police had simply knocked and clearly identified themselves before entering Taylor’s home, perhaps she would be alive today.

Thus, the need to ban no knock warrants should be eliminated as the danger to police and the occupants far exceeds the need for gaining entry without announcing police presence.

This board applauds the efforts of the Baltimore County Council’s attempt to create police accountability, transparency, and reform by passing the SMART Policing Act and implore Baltimore City and all other Counties to follow suit.

Editorial Advisory Board members Arthur F. Fergenson, Nancy Forster, Leigh Goodmark, Michael Hayes and Debra G. Schubert did not participate in this opinion.

EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD MEMBERS

James B. Astrachan, Chair

James K. Archibald

Arthur F. Fergenson

Nancy Forster

Susan Francis

Leigh Goodmark

Michael Hayes

Julie C. Janofsky

Ericka N. King

Stephen Z. Meehan

C. William Michaels

Angela W. Russell

Debra G. Schubert

H. Mark Stichel

Vanessa Vescio (on leave)

The Daily Record Editorial Advisory Board is composed of members of the legal profession who serve voluntarily and are independent of The Daily Record. Through their ongoing exchange of views, members of the board attempt to develop consensus on issues of importance to the bench, bar and public. When their minds meet, unsigned opinions will result. When they differ, or if a conflict exists, majority views and the names of members who do not participate will appear. Members of the community are invited to contribute letters to the editor and/or columns about opinions expressed by the Editorial Advisory Board.