Common misconceptions about The Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights (LEOBR) have continued to spread and grow as police reform remains one of this legislative session’s prominent issues. For years, the Baltimore County FOP Lodge #4 has been committed to enforcing responsible policing and accountability across our county and state. Irresponsible policing is not a result of LEOBR, but rather, years of policy failures by management.
For example, methods like Broken Windows Policing, introduced in 1982, which argued that maintaining order by policing low-level offenses could prevent more serious crimes, incident-driven policing in the early 1990’s, and zero tolerance policing in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s (both implemented by legislative bodies and chiefs), have resulted in damaged relationships with the citizens officers are meant to protect.
To be clear, these decisions were not made by rank-and-file officers. They were conceived and enforced by those in command positions. Commanders draft all policies, strategies, and methods. As a result of many of these failed initiatives, law enforcement officers today are paying the price for antiquated policies they were required to enforce. Instead of blaming rank and file officers, commanders should be held accountable for many of the failures we are witnessing.
For additional context, the LEOBR was implemented in 1974 to prevent police chiefs from terminating officers indiscriminately for political expediency or personal bias – not to protect bad cops. We have seen examples of this in the recent lawsuit brought against the Maryland State Police by a group of African American officers. The LEOBR was implemented to expose unbiased truth in investigations, not to achieve a desired result. Simply put, the system is not broken. Today, agencies mismanage the process and then blame the LEOBR to cover for their broad incompetence. Eliminating the LEOBR in the name of police reform is a disservice to the overwhelming number of law enforcement officers who perform their duties honorably and professionally.
Police reform is essential. However, meaningful reform will not happen with the elimination of a fair, due process system with 47 years of case law to support it. It is, however, the implementation of practices that promote community engagement, conversation, and interaction between law enforcement and those they serve, that will promote positive change. The removal of this process will have unintended consequences. Already, too many good officers are choosing to resign, and others interested in serving suggest some level of discouragement or concern about joining the profession.
Officers are not perfect. Like all humans, they cannot operate under the expectation of perfection and infallibility. No one can. It’s time to come together to discuss how we can make real change. A solution can only be accomplished through honest dialogue around accountability, safety, and devotion to those we serve.
FOP Lodge #4