On March 1, Maryland’s Judiciary Committee heard arguments in favor of HB 1012, the Police Immunity and Accountability Act. Introduced by Delegate Jheanelle Wilkins, the measure aims to end qualified immunity in Maryland. With this bill, Maryland joins a growing number of states, including New York and Vermont, looking to overturn the unconstitutional doctrine.
Various speakers offered powerful testimony on behalf of HB 1012. These individuals discussed the urgent need for state lawmakers to end qualified immunity, arguing that establishing a system of accountability will help build trust between the police and the public.
Here are some highlights from the hearing:
Delegate Wilkins: “Our work to reimagine public safety and make reforms to policing is unfinished until every resident of Maryland has access to equitable public safety and justice. Qualified immunity for police officers has shielded officers from liability…even in egregious circumstances. Immunity hurts the victims of police misconduct and it also harms public safety. Accountability is public safety, when we have the public’s trust and you have transparency.”
Karen Remaley, Baltimore chapter of Moms Demand Action: “Black people are four times as likely to be killed by police than white people in Maryland. If law enforcement is not held accountable for violating an individual’s rights, then police reform will not have the necessary teeth for individuals to receive justice.”
Danica R. Stark, Prince George’s County chapter of Moms Demand Action: “Qualified immunity will ensure transparency and accountability in cases where police officers abuse their authority. Maryland citizens deserve a right to recourse against excessive use of force. When it comes to qualified immunity, the good cops don’t need it and the bad cops don’t deserve it.”
Keisha James, National Police Accountability Project: “HB 1012 will ensure all victims have access to justice.”
Chad Reese, Institute for Justice: “For a right to actually exist, there must be a remedy to victims whose rights are violated. Qualified immunity robs victims of their right to seek that remedy. If everyday citizens have to violate the law, then government officials should have to follow the Constitution, and that requires an enforcement mechanism to do so.”
Rev. Kobi Little, MD Conference of NAACP: “Qualified immunity is rooted in racism and discrimination, and it has been used to block civil rights remedies. We have an opportunity to create law enforcement departments that the community trusts and that individuals want to work for. [HB 1012] provides some remedies and reassurances and creates a more stable environment for officers to work in.”