ANNAPOLIS – As the Maryland General Assembly gaveled in the new session Wednesday, police brutality protestors rallied outside the Statehouse to support a bill to create a special prosecutor to probe law enforcement abuse.
The bill, being drafted by Sen. Clarence Mitchell, D-Baltimore, would appoint a special prosecutor responsible for investigating cases where there are questions about police use of deadly force.
Such a prosecutor would be less prone to bias, Mitchell said, because unlike elected state’s attorneys or the attorney general, the position would be appointed and less susceptible to political influence.
It’s unknown what the bill’s prospects are this session, said Senate President Pro Tem Ida Ruben, D-Montgomery.
The protest was organized by Enough is Enough, a national group aimed at preventing police brutality, said Joe Madison, a founder of the organization.
For the last 19 Wednesdays, the group has rallied outside the governor’s residence in hopes Gov. Parris Glendening would meet with them. He did not, Madison said.
Glendening did meet with the group late last year, said Raquel Guillory, the governor’s deputy press secretary. But, he continued to get meeting requests from individuals within the group that he couldn’t grant.
“However, there’s still dialogue going with the legal department here so it’s not like we dropped the ball and are ignoring them,” she said.
The group decided to go the Legislature for help, Madison said. He said it was important the issue be addressed.
“In the decade of the 90s, there were 2,000 young black, Hispanic and Asians who were killed … by police officers,” he said. “Innocent people who didn’t commit any crimes. That’s why this is important.”
Several parents of those killed by police officers in Maryland attended the rally, among them Marion Gray-Hopkins, of Lanham.
Last November, her son, Gary Hopkins Jr. was attending a cabaret at a firehouse when an argument broke out between two groups. Gray-Hopkins said her son, who knew people from both groups, settled the disagreement. On the way home, the car Hopkins was in was pulled over by Prince George’s County Police. She said her son was pulled from the car and shot in the chest. She said the police said the shooting officer thought Hopkins was going for the other officer’s gun. The incident, she said, is under investigation by the internal affairs department and the FBI. There is also a civil lawsuit pending she said.
About 200 people attended the rally, according to Maryland State Police, a number Gray-Hopkins said made her happy. But the work is not done.
“I can’t bring my son back, however, I will continue to march for as long as it takes,” Gray-Hopkins said. “My son’s death won’t be in vain.”
Both Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley and former state Sen. Andrew Young, D-Baltimore, spoke in support of the protest.
“If a neighborhood doesn’t trust you because they’re not sure which officers are playing by the rules and which ones aren’t,” O’Malley said, “it decreases police protection.”