As part of a larger effort to address issues of racial justice, we are supporting measures for Criminal Justice Reform and Police Accountability
In this case, the structures of privilege and oppression are themselves multi-faceted and intertwined. The
Baltimore uprising in April showed the level of frustration with the social and criminal justice system that has been building over years and demonstrated that we must take an active role. Many UUs have urged us to support the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, and we have. However, it would be a mistake to say that we have adopted BLM as a UULM-MD legislative priority. The fact is that racism is much broader, and we are only focusing on a small but important part of it when we deal with criminal justice. Granted, it is the abuse and killing of African Americans by police that has been the trigger for protests and outrage, and significantly raised awareness among whites and the existing power structure. But before that, Michelle Alexander’s book “The New Jim Crow” also confronted us with the oppressiveness of the criminal justice system (of which police are a part).
Holding Law Enforcement Accountable
We are also working on issues that became the focal point of the Black Lives Matters movement. This year, we are supporting efforts to modify the Law Enforcement Officers' Bill of Rights to facilitate timely investigations of police misconduct (instead of shielding officers) and to make the process more transparent. Our efforts are ultimately aimed at raising awareness and promoting the discussion that Ms. Alexander advocated. She told us that nothing will change unless America has a frank and serious discussion about race. We hope that pushing the issue of police accountability will help in that effort, and our support for criminal justice legislation, while important in itself, is ultimately a means toward the end of addressing the larger issues of race and privilege.
In May 2015, the Senate President and House Speaker created the joint legislative Public Safety and Policing Workgroup for the purpose of examining police training resources, recruiting and hiring practices, and community engagement policies; considering a statewide oversight panel for certain kinds of investigations; and reviewing the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights and its application and practice by law enforcement agencies across the State. The Workgroup issued its report in January 2016, and the House and Senate leadership introduced legislation to enact its 23 recommendations.