Del. Griffith (R) represents District 35B, which is parts of Harford and Cecil counties. He serves on the Judiciary Committee and the Public Safety Subcommittee, in which the police reform package was handled.

After the last election, even though Joe Biden won the presidency, Democrats lost ground in many local and state elections. On a call with Democratic leaders following the election, Joe Biden admitted that “defund the police” was a problem for Democrats. Being pushed from the far left to do so, what is the Democrat party to do? In Maryland they figured it out: Defund, dismantle and destroy police operations as we know them and call it police reform.

Now I, like many, agree there is absolutely opportunity to improve policing. In the package of police reform bills the General Assembly just passed, there are some constructive bills, such as body cameras, a focus on mental health of police, and more. But the heart of the bill package accomplishes something quite different. The police reform legislation that has been passed includes repealing and replacing the police officers disciplinary process, making unfounded and unproven complaints of law enforcement officers available to the public, making witness information public (which has a number of problems with witness intimidation alone), and finally perhaps the most concerning: The yet undefined Use of Force standard.

The Use of Force standard as laid out in the legislation will have police constantly second guessing themselves. Take a situation like the one that killed a Capitol Police officer in recent weeks. The bill states that law enforcement must only use “proportional force”. In a case like this when someone is driving at you, at what point does the police officer know when and what force is proportional to use deadly force? When the car is 500 feet away? 100ft? 50ft? The guessing game this lays out is impossible to navigate and this is just one of countless scenarios that police have to navigate. This guesswork will result in the unnecessary death of police officers.

Proponents of legislation state that more training will allow police officers to understand and navigate the use of force. I believe this claim to be massively shortsighted. We already have a shortage of law enforcement officers across the state, with police officers already working tons of overtime, specifically in Baltimore city. Considering the lack of officers and the amount of time of the current officers have to be on the road, where is the time for these police officers to be trained? There is already extensive and grueling training in place for every single police department. No amount of additional training will teach officers how to comply with a vague and arbitrary use of force standard. A standard which does not even expressly prohibit choke holds in non life or death circumstances. A policy that I not only advocated for, but is the policy of the Harford County sheriff.

In addition, any officer that violates this arbitrary use of force standard could have their pensions taken away from them. Officers who have served their community for decades could be unjustly penalized in a way that damages their future and their families future. The culmination of these policies have already caused five Baltimore County police officers to resign. We will see this happen across the state; we will see early retirements and we will see lower recruitment.

The cumulative effect of all these things is the exact same as defunding the police. It’s just a less abrasive title. While the Democrats here in Annapolis may not have intended to harm our law enforcement officers, it is what this legislation will do.

The whole nation will be watching Maryland very closely to see the impact of this legislation on policing on crime in our communities. There is no doubt that our communities will experience an increase in crime and death as a direct result of this legislation.

I pray I am wrong.

The nation is watching.

Del. Griffith (R) represents District 35B, which is parts of Harford and Cecil counties. He serves on the Judiciary Committee and the Public Safety Subcommittee, in which the police reform package was handled.

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