Over the past week, Maryland has seen two different police shootings. On Tuesday, Peyton Ham, a 16-year-old boy, was shot and killed by a Maryland State Police trooper in Leonardtown, and last Wednesday morning an off-duty Pentagon police officer shot and killed two people in Takoma Park, Maryland. Although each instance of police violence is unique, police violence is gun violence and fatal use of force should be avoided at all costs.
Both shootings come during the same week as the Maryland General Assembly’s passage of the Maryland Police Accountability Act of 2021, a comprehensive package of legislation including numerous measures to prevent police violence and create transparency and accountability, including strong statewide standards to prevent the excessive use of force, restricting the use of no-knock search warrants and requiring the use of body-worn cameras.
Last Wednesday, lawmakers passed this critical police reform legislation, but it was vetoed by Governor Hogan. However, Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action volunteers helped urge a veto override by the legislature over the weekend — making sure the Maryland Police Accountability Act of 2021 will become law. The full package will be in effect by July 1, 2022.
Ending police violence requires more than legislation, but the Maryland Police Accountability Act of 2021 is an important step in addressing police violence in Maryland. Data from Mapping Police Violence shows that between 2013 and 2020, 144 people were killed by police in Maryland, the majority with guns. Read more about police reform policies here.
To curb police violence, it is essential that every law enforcement officer in the U.S. works for an agency with evidence-based policies—including strong guardrails on when police may use force against civilians, ensuring police are held accountable when force is used, and prioritizing de-escalation, dignity, and respect.
Research suggests that implementing specific use-of-force policies can save lives. One 2016 study of 91 large police departments found adoption of use-of-force reform policies—exhaustion of other means prior to shooting, bans on chokeholds and strangleholds, use-of-force continuum, de-escalation, duty to intervene, restrictions on shootings at moving vehicles, and warning before shooting—was associated with fewer people killed by police.
More information on the Maryland Police Accountability Act of 2021:
- Repeals Maryland’s so-called Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights, a set of laws that for decades has hindered efforts to hold officers who abuse their authority accountable.
- Establishes a new system for the investigation and imposition of discipline for cases of officer misconduct, one that includes strong civilian oversight and ensures a system that is transparent, accessible and consistent across the state. It also requires independent investigations into all killings of civilians by police officers.
- Ensures that records relating to police misconduct are accessible to the public, provides early intervention systems for officers whose behavior indicates they might pose a risk of violence, prevents state law enforcement agencies from obtaining military surplus equipment, and provides counseling and employee assistance services for law enforcement officers.
Additional information on gun violence in Maryland is available here, and Everytown’s Gun Law Navigator — which shows how Maryland’s gun laws compare to those of other states — is available here.