Maryland’s forty-year-old Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights [LEOBR or LEOBOR], which served as a model for the enactment of similar measures in other states, closely restrains the rights of public agencies to discipline law enforcement officers for suspected misconduct; for example, it effectively gives police officers a right to refuse to answer questions on the record for as long as ten days after an incident. In the Annapolis legislative term just ended, the Baltimore city administration of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, in alliance with the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland and some other groups, sought to reform the state’s LEOBR. The effort, however, failed to get out of committee, for reasons discussed by P. Kenneth Burns at WYPR; for one thing, some legislators said they were not persuaded that the law was causing problems beyond the city of Baltimore. Moreover, police unions, whose political clout got LEOBR passed in the first place, remain a powerful lobby in Annapolis, especially among Republican lawmakers, whose ranks include police union officials.
The death of Freddie Gray in police custody may change that equation in the future. It has called attention to the long history of police abuse in Baltimore, and Rawlings-Blake has cited the LEOBR specifically as a law that makes it more difficult to investigate episodes like this.
For defenses of the law, check out labor official Jimmy Dulay, Center Maryland; Ron DeLord. Back in 2000, claims of inconsistency with LEOBR, legally accurate or not, torpedoed proposals for a citizen review board in Frederick.