Editorial by Carolyn Ewing
Maryland State’s Attorneys’ Association’s (MSAA) Prosecutorial Police Reform
Sub-Committee has made a number of recommendations to its membership; it is
unclear how many of the state’s attorneys endorse the recommendations, but some
of those recommendations bear close scrutiny because they support the effort of
groups and lawmakers who want to reduce the authority of local law enforcement
to act to protect citizens and reduce funding for local law enforcement.
is disturbing to note that an association of elected officials, the state’s attorneys,
are attempting to usurp the authority of another group of elected officials, the
sheriffs. One of the most disconcerting recommendations of the MSAA is
appointment of a new police agency within the offices of state’s attorneys that
would have the authority to investigate police use of force in instances
involving serious bodily injury or death. This recommendation begs the question
of who determines what serious bodily injury is; currently, any injury to an
individual while being taken into custody is treated by the local sheriff’s departments
as serious, requiring an internal report and evaluation of the use of force. However,
to elevate non-life-threatening injuries to investigation by an external police
agency is a violation of the constitutional authority of elected sheriffs.
police authority under the auspices of state’s attorneys will inevitably reduce
the resources available to support the sheriffs; it also reduces the efficiency
with which individual instances of use of force can be addressed, which can
have the unintended consequence of failure to detect inappropriate use of force
in a timely manner. Ambitious state’s attorneys could also err in the other
direction, as did the State’s Attorney for Baltimore, Marilyn Mosby, when she misused
her office to pursue politically motivated and unsuccessful prosecutions of
police officers in the Freddie Gray case. This is an attempt, it would appear,
to bow to the voice of the far left and to fix a problem that does not exist.
MSAA’s recommendations state that their association is “opposed to any
independent agency usurping our constitutional obligations in the prosecuting
of any case, including police use of force cases.” However, MSAA did not
consult with Maryland Sheriff’s Association prior to submitting
recommendations, some of which usurp sheriffs’ authority, to their membership. They
have thus far been unresponsive to requests from the Maryland Sheriffs’
Association (MSA) to discuss MSA’s concerns. A classic case of “good for me,
but not for thee.”
we look toward the next legislative session in Annapolis, we know there will be
bills introduced to defund police. This resolution might be regarded as the
opening salvo in that effort. If people in Maryland want locally elected
sheriffs, who understand their communities, to retain the authority established
under the State Constitution to enforce the law without interference from
entities with less direct knowledge of the operation and obligations of
sheriffs, they need to speak out against the usurpation of authority of local
sheriff’s departments throughout the state.
Ewing is a former public relations executive who spent most of her career in
Washington, DC where she worked with clients in the public and private sectors
to develop and implement strategic communications and crisis management plans.
Since retiring to Easton in 2007, she has been active in community affairs and
served as president of the board of directors of the Mental Health Association
of the Eastern Shore.