HB0541/SB633: Maryland Police Training and Standards Commission –  Training Requirements – Hate Crimes  

Bill Title: Maryland Police Training and Standards Commission –  Training Requirements – Hate Crimes

Bill Number(s): HB0541/SB633

Bill Sponsor(s): Delegate Lesley J. Lopez (D-39, Montgomery County), Senator Jeff Waldstreicher (D-18, Montgomery County)

Position: Support

Legislative History: Referral to Judiciary Committee in House of Delegates, Referral to Judicial Proceedings Committee in Senate

What will this bill do? 

Existing law requires police to report hate crimes. This bill mandates that police officers receive training, on entry to the force and every 3 years in continuing education, to better understand how to investigate and report hate crimes.

Why is this important? 

In 2016, FreeState Justice conducted a Needs Assessment of LGBTQ Marylanders, surveying and conducting listening sessions with over 500 LGBTQ Marylanders to better understand barriers to full equality. We learned that almost 1 in 3 LGBTQ people consider street harassment and interactions with law enforcement to be urgent issues facing the community. Several participants shared accounts of requesting help from the police, only to be mocked or arrested. One respondent remarked: “My friends and I were leaving a bar one night and a car pulled up, about 4 guys got out of the car and started calling us names and throwing beer bottles at us. We took off running, called the police. When the police arrived, our response from the police was we should expect that to happen to us because of our lifestyle.”

The prevalence of street harassment based on sexual orientation and gender identity and the actual or perceived lack of recourse to law enforcement significantly impacts the freedom and wellbeing of LGBTQ Marylanders. For example, some participants significantly alter their daily routines to minimize the threat of harm. One Black transgender woman in Baltimore noted: “I have to run all my errands at night, because as a trans woman, if I go out during the day, I get harassed by the police.”

As demonstrated by the Needs Assessment, fear and exclusion from access to public safety institutions prevent LGBTQ Marylanders from leading safe and healthy lives with full access to dignity and rights. Mandating entrance-level and in-service training for police on hate crimes is essential to carry out the duties assigned to police officers by existing law, reduce disparities in reporting between counties, increase knowledge and resources for local police to make final verified or unfounded determinations on reported hate crime incidents, and improve the safety and wellbeing of LGBTQ Marylanders and other targeted groups.