Maryland Urgently Needs Meaningful Police and Criminal Justice Reforms; The Time For Lawmakers to Act is Now

By Huzzaifa Mohamed, CAIR National

Our country is still in the middle of a long-overdue racial reckoning sparked by the brutal murder of George Floyd, and Maryland is in the thick of this reckoning. State lawmakers are currently debating several police and criminal justice reform bills that aim to fix antiquated and discriminatory policies and practices.

While headlines have only recently begun to focus particularly on police violence and misconduct, the reality is that this issue has affected especially Black and Brown communities for generations.

From police in our children’s schools that disproportionately reprimand and criminalize students of color and fuel the school-to-prison pipeline, to the racial profiling of our communities, to the unnecessary use of force that has led to too many Black men and women killed and injured at the hands of police, to life sentences without parole being handed predominantly to children of color, it’s clear that change is long overdue. Enough is enough.

Many people believe biased and unjust policing practices can’t be fixed. The truth is that they must be fixed. If we want to live in a society where Black and Brown individuals are not discriminated against by police or punished excessively harshly by our courts for their mistakes, we must enact meaningful changes at the state level.

For too long, police officers have gotten away with misconduct and excess use of force without any real oversight or accountability.

For too long, we’ve allowed law enforcement officers to act unjustly and unfairly towards minorities and people of color. The solution to ending past wrongs starts with us.

CAIR is calling on Maryland lawmakers to center the trauma and pain of families who’ve been most directly impacted by police violence and antiquated criminal justice practices. This pain deserves to be validated. It is substantial, traumatic and carried for the rest of their lives.

We urge our lawmakers to adopt the Maryland Coalition for Justice & Police Accountability’s reform mandates and repeal the law enforcement officers bill of rights (LEOBR); restore control of the Baltimore City Police Department to the city; make investigations into police misconduct transparent; limit use of force by law enforcement officers; and to remove police from our children’s schools to help create a safer and healthier learning environment for students of color.

We urge lawmakers to fix unconstitutional amendments to use of force bills, to not pass amendments that would weaken and water down critical reform bills and to allow independent community oversight of policing.

These comprehensive reforms will help restore trust in law enforcement, ensure that police officers are held responsible for their actions, and help heal the trauma of our neighbors and community members who’ve lost loved ones to police violence.

We also strongly urge them to pass the Juvenile Restoration Act, and once and for all do away with life without parole sentences for minors.

CAIR is taking a stand to help ensure that no mother, father, brother, or sister, should ever go through the pain again of finding out their family member died at the hands of officers sworn to protect and serve.

The time for meaningful change is long overdue. We are counting on our lawmakers in Annapolis to pass police reform and criminal justice bills this session that will make a tangible difference. Anything less is simply unacceptable.

Huzzaifa Muhammad is Government Affairs Intern for the Maryland office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization.

America’s largest Muslim civil rights organization.