Maryland Police Misconduct Investigations Must Be Transparent: We Support Anton’s Law

Photo: Bruce Emmerling

Maryland legislation known as Anton’s Law would subject police disciplinary investigations to the state Public Information Act (MPIA). “Sunshine laws” such as the MPIA boost government transparency. They promote fairness, accountability, and due process, and that’ why we support Senator Jill P. Carter’s bill, SB178, extending the MPIA. We believe:

  • Survivors of police misconduct, their advocates, and communities deserve to know know how their complaints are handled.
  • Law enforcement needs independent oversight.
  • Transparency is necessary for accountability.
  • Transparency is necessary for community trust.

We borrowed those bullet points from our Maryland ACLU friends. MPIA reform is one of five necessary police reforms for Maryland, backed by an ACLU-led coalition of over 85 organizations including Takoma Park Mobilization. Here’s our testimony on this one bill with more to come —

Chair Smith and Members of the Judicial Proceedings Committee,

Takoma Park Mobilization supports ​SB178, Public Information Act – Personnel Records – Investigations of Law Enforcement Officers (Anton’s Law)​, and urges a favorable committee report.

Takoma Park Mobilization is a grassroots advocacy organization with 2,300 members in and around Takoma Park, Maryland that works to enact local, state, and national policies and laws that ensure equal justice for all, with special attention to the treatment of people of color, immigrants, and other vulnerable individuals in our communities.

SB178 extends the provisions of the Maryland Public Information Act (MPIA) to records of administrative or criminal investigations of misconduct by a law enforcement officer, including an internal affairs investigatory record, a hearing record, and records relating to a disciplinary decision. The statute rules that such records may not be considered personnel records for MPIA disclosure purposes.

These are important reforms. “Sunshine laws” such as the MPIA, by providing standards and establishing procedures that maximize public access to government information, sustain fairness, accountability, and due process. They are a foundation for good government and must be comprehensive.​ Maryland’s exceptional Public Information Act treatment of law enforcement misconduct-investigation and disciplinary records must be eliminated.

SB178 would enhance public-safety transparency by applying to Maryland law enforcement, disclosure rules already applied to similar non-law enforcement records. It would advance accountability by eliminating exceptions that shield misconduct from public and press visibility. By opening investigation records to public scrutiny, SB178 will both encourage better policing — an essential goal — and boost public trust in law enforcement and law enforcement disciplinary actions.

SB 178 is important legislation that would improve law enforcement performance and build public trust. Takoma Park Mobilization urges a favorable SB 178 committee report and General Assembly enactment.