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senator robert cassilly sits behind a table and address the room while wearing a covid face mask

Community oversight of policing is not a “kangaroo court”

One of the most contentious aspects of SB 627, in the 2021 Maryland General Assembly (sponsored by Sen. Jill P. Carter) is that it authorizes counties to establish a community oversight body that can impose discipline and oversight of Baltimore City police officers. The is one of the most important aspects of the bill. Baltimore City currently has a civilian review board, but it does not have any real power. As LBS as argued for many years, at the heart of police accountability policy is to put power in the hands of the community to punish officers that harm members of the community. This is the ultimate deterrent of police brutality.

One of the ways that notions of white supremacy is imbued in the resistance to people having power over the police is the societal notion that Black people are inherently criminal and corrupt. Legislators that would characterize community power and oversight over law enforcement as a “kangaroo court” see the community as the problem that is to be fixed by police.

This is the kind of anti-Black characterizations that are often made of Baltimore in the state house that deflect attention away from issues like mass incarceration, red lining, non-profit industrial complex, environmental injustices like lead paint poisoning, gentrification, and other societal forces create many of the problems that Baltimore faces, and instead blames poor and working class Black people for the societal assault on our humanity.

We ask that all those who are allies on the issue of police accountability to urge the Judicial Proceedings Committee to make sure that SB 627 passes the MD state senate with the provision that allows the community to have power over the police in their community.

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