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MD – LE – Officer bill of rights is hurting Baltimore policing and contributing to corruption

A number of good ideas have emerged for reforming the Baltimore Police Department. All the new policies, retraining and peer-intervention programs in the world will be for naught, however, until police officers and their bosses know that they will be held accountable for the success of those measures as demonstrated by their conduct on the job. Accountability requires establishing a disciplinary system capable of getting rid of bad officers quickly. Putting other reforms in place is a monumental waste of time until accountability is restored by an overhaul of the existing, ineffective disciplinary system. It must be the first priority. Fixing the disciplinary system means substantial changes to state law, including the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights (LEOBR). The LEOBR may work adequately where policing is less demanding than in Baltimore, but it has been the ruination of the city’s department. The key to the success of any hierarchical organization like a police department is putting one person in charge, giving that person the necessary tools to run the organization, and then holding that person fully accountable for the results. It is a tried-and-true formula that the state abandoned years ago for police departments when it enacted the LEOBR at the behest of police unions. I believe that at least two changes to the LEOBR are necessary. The first, and most important, is restoring the power of the police commissioner to discipline police officers. That will require officers to answer for their conduct to the commissioner rather than to “hearing boards” consisting of their peers who are not accountable for their decisions. The second is eliminating the requirement that disciplinary investigations be done by other officers in the department. That will allow the commissioner to use civilians or an outside agency to do investigations.  [full article]

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