ACLU and Police Accountability Reform

 

The trials of Baltimore police officers charged in the killing of Freddie Gray have begun. ACLU of Maryland's legal staff is paying close attention to the trials.  And as an organization that cares deeply about the First Amendment right to protest, our legal staff is fielding and responding to queries about protests and actions from those organizing them, as well as monitoring incident reports that are submitted through the Mobile Justice Maryland app.

The systemic police reform issues in Baltimore & Maryland:

Criminal proceedings of the officers directly involved in Freddie Gray's death alone cannot achieve systemic reform.  Just as line officers should be held accountable for their actions, supervisors of the Department and their policies are also to blame for police misconduct and should be held accountable.  Often, the vehicle for holding police supervisors and departments accountable is through civil litigation against law enforcement agencies, which we have done through the past two decades, first against the state police for their "driving while black" racial profiling policies and second against the BPD for its over arrest on zero tolerance. In this instance, the Gray family's civil claims against the City have already been settled.  Thus, the ACLU has also been working to ensure that the Department of Justice receives the information it needs to identify the systemic issues, both on our own and in collaboration with other advocates.
 
Baltimore Advocacy:

1.    ACLU is distributing flyers to promote the Mobile Justice App and to educate people about why significant reform of the Law Enforcement Officers' Bill of Rights (LEOBR) is vital to the movement for police accountability;

2.    ACLU is pressing the Baltimore Police Department to adopt body camera policies that protect privacy and promote accountability and transparency;

3.    ACLU is supporting the work of our partners in the Baltimore Campaign for Justice, Safety and Jobs as reforms are sought in Baltimore City to increase police accountability;

4.    ACLU is helping to monitor the review of police misconduct cases, as well as discipline decisions, by Baltimore's Civilian Review Board, on which the ACLU has a seat.

Statewide Advocacy:

1.    ACLU is seeking, in collaboration with the Maryland Coalition for Justice and Police Accountability and countless others, policy changes in Annapolis including (a) ending special rights for police that block meaningful accountability and civilian oversight in the Maryland LEOBR; (b) ensuring police body camera programs protect privacy and promote accountability and transparency; and (c) fighting for changes to the law to ensure that records of police misconduct are not kept secret. The ACLU also is monitoring and exposing racial bias in police stops by the Maryland State Police and Baltimore County police;

2.    ACLU is drawing public attention to the frequency and systemic nature of police-involved deaths by maintaining and periodically publishing briefing papers based on our hand-compiled database of such deaths throughout the state;

3.    ACLU is fielding and tracking requests for assistance from individuals who have experienced police misconduct in any form and providing assistance with information and/or direct representation;

4.    ACLU is supporting efforts to ensure police departments do not discriminate internally and to protect whistleblowers;

5.    ACLU is helping to build the toolkit of individuals and communities who want to hold police accountable directly by (a) operating a robust Know Your Rights program providing trainings to groups across the state about their rights in police encounters & facilitating conversations about systemic change; (b) maintaining and encouraging widespread use of Mobile Justice Maryland, a free smart phone app that allows Marylanders to automatically record and submit cell phone videos of interactions with law enforcement to the ACLU when they feel their rights have been violated; and (c) building a statewide "Police Accountability Network" of individuals affected by police misconduct and activists working towards police reform in counties throughout Maryland.