Poll: Marylanders Seek Heightened Law Enforcement Accountability

Rebecca Buckwalter-Poza & Sean McElwee

With the Maryland State Senate and House of Delegates each passing similar policing reform bills with veto-proof majorities, a new poll from Data for Progress and The Lab, a policy vertical of The Appeal, shows that Maryland voters broadly support enhanced police accountability.  

More than half of Maryland’s likely voters (55 percent) want to repeal Maryland’s Law Enforcement Bill of Rights, or LEOBR, a 1974 statute that police officers use to thwart inquiries and the imposition of discipline in cases of wrongdoing. Only 32 percent of voters oppose repealing the law—a difference of 23 percentage points. Currently under scrutiny in Maryland’s legislature, the policy creates rights that are unique to police officers and routinely denied to those subject to police investigation and control. Under this so-called “Bill of Rights,” for example, officers accused of misconduct may be interviewed by members of their own department instead of outside investigators, and they enjoy a buffer of five days before they are required to appear before internal investigators.  

After Baltimore police killed Freddie Gray in 2015, then-Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake joined advocates in blaming the Law Enforcement Bill of Rights for delays in the investigation and for roadblocks that made it harder for officials to learn how Gray, who was 25, ended up with a severed spine in the back of a police van. Ultimately, the internal review board doled out what was described as only “modest” discipline to the officers responsible. 

Maryland was the first state to codify such workplace protections for officers accused of or facing investigations for misconduct, but the law has since served as a blueprint for more than a dozen states across the country. As the Washington Post explained, that includes Wisconsin, where Jacob Blake was paralyzed from the waist down after police shot him last summer; Minnesota, where a police officer killed George Floyd by kneeling on his neck for over eight minutes; and Kentucky, where on year ago police shot and killed Breonna Taylor during a “no-knock” raid

Both the House and Senate bills would repeal at least much of the law and create a new disciplinary process that would empower majority-civilian boards to adjudicate misconduct complaints against police officers. 

Marylanders also support creating uniform, statewide standards for disciplining law enforcement officers, removing the possibility of gaps in accountability within cities and counties, and prohibiting police unions from pursuing collective bargaining agreements that cover officer discipline. Seventy-three percent of Marylanders, including 66 percent of Republicans, back statewide discipline standards, while 54 percent support the ban on collective bargaining over discipline.

Polling Methodology

From February 26 to March 2, 2021, Data for Progress conducted a survey of 669 likely voters in Maryland using web panel respondents. The sample was weighted to be representative of likely voters by age, gender, education, race, and voting history. The survey was conducted in English. The margin of error is ±4 percentage points.

Poll: Marylanders Seek Heightened Law Enforcement Accountability