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Lawmakers Approach Session's Last Day With Police Reform Done

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Rachel Baye
/
WYPR

The General Assembly’s annual 90-day session ends Monday night at midnight, and lawmakers begin their final day having already accomplished one of the leaders’ top priorities: wide-ranging police reform.

Landmark changes to policing are officially law, after legislators overrode Gov. Larry Hogan’s vetoes this weekend.

The new laws restrict officers’ use of no-knock warrants and physical force. They also replace the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights with a new process for discipline.

During debate Saturday, Sen. Cory McCray, a Baltimore Democrat, was one of multiple Black lawmakers who shared personal experiences of being racially profiled by police.

“When our young men and young women have these reflections and have these experiences, it lays a bad effect,” he said. “And what happens is your mental makes you think that every officer is that way. And that's not the truth.”

He said the reforms are necessary to help build trust in police.

Several Republicans urged their colleagues to sustain the governor’s vetoes. They argued that the bills effectively criminalize police.

As crime rates rise, the opportunities for police to make mistakes also increase because police spend more time in dangerous situations, said Sen. Robert Cassilly, a Republican from Harford County.

“The anti-police rhetoric that's totally apparent in these bills, this effort to mass, group punishment for police officers only inflames the anti-police rhetoric, the disrespect and the attacks on our police officers,” he said.

Lawmakers voted largely along party lines to override the vetoes.