In the wake of global outrage over police brutality and misconduct, policymakers across the United States, including in Maryland, have been scrambling to rebuild trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve. One such effort is House Bill 6, the Community-Oriented Policing Act. This legislation seeks to mend the fractured relationship between police and the public by prohibiting harmful practices like quotas that incentivize biased, overzealous policing.
Studies have suggested that community-oriented policing strategies have positive effects on citizen satisfaction, perceptions of disorder, and police legitimacy. This legislation aims to do just that to strengthen relationships between law enforcement and communities by demonstrating a commitment to fair and equitable policing practices. It intends to promote a more balanced approach to law enforcement, where officers focus on public safety and community needs rather than meeting quotas.
If enacted, HB6 would ban law enforcement agencies from establishing or maintaining any formal or informal quotas for arrests, citations, investigations, warrants served, or other enforcement actions. Research has shown that police quotas undermine public trust in law enforcement, which is crucial for effective policing reliant on community cooperation such as crime tips and eyewitness testimonies. These quotas are often linked to racially biased practices, exemplified by allegations within the New York Police Department of discriminatory enforcement against Black and Hispanic individuals. Furthermore, many officers are opposed to quotas, feeling that they compromise their professional judgment and ability to address specific community needs. A significant majority of officers, as per the National Police Research Platform, believe their departments prioritize the quantity of police activity, like ticketing and arrests, over the quality of their work.
The Community-Oriented Policing Act could also broaden the existing prohibition against using the number of arrests or citations as a sole or primary factor in evaluating officers. It now includes investigations conducted, warrants served or executed, and other enforcement actions. HB6 would also prohibit agencies from requiring, suggesting, requesting, or directing officers to act in ways that would increase their numbers in these areas.
The bill is not without criticism, as Maryland's Department of State Police (DSP) and the Natural Resources Police (NRP) warn that the Community-Oriented Policing Act might affect law enforcement operations. Both departments, among others, currently employ enforcement statistics to assess their officers' efficiency and dedication. They clarify that they do not implement enforcement quotas, but do consider an officer's arrest and citation numbers as a quantifiable factor for performance evaluation. Consequently, they argue that the bill's restriction on using these metrics could impede the development of work improvement strategies and the promotion of greater officer diligence.
This bill stands out for its bipartisan nature, having been sponsored by both Democrats and Republicans, which is a notable departure from the usual partisan legislative proposals we have seen nationwide. This collaborative approach across party lines enhances its prospects of passing through the legislative process. The involvement of both major parties increases the likelihood that the bill will receive the necessary support to be enacted and signed into law by Maryland Governor Wes Moore.
Bill text of HB6, the Community-Oriented Policing Act