State’s attorneys from across Maryland descended on Annapolis Tuesday to fight against an “absurd” bill aimed at “usurping” their authorities as elected prosecutors.
House Bill 857 would give Attorney General Anthony Brown’s office the power to prosecute police officers who kill civilians, a power that currently rests with the state’s 24 elected state’s attorneys.
The attorney general’s Independent Investigations Division already is required by law to investigate every police-caused death in the state and to issue a report on its findings as to whether criminal charges are possible. Those reports do not recommend charges one way or the other.
Brown told lawmakers Tuesday that his office ought to have the authority because it would increase the public’s confidence that the right decision had been made, and that officers were not avoiding prosecution because of personal relationships between prosecutors and the department, or for political purposes.
“This bill is about ensuring public confidence in the prosecution decisions just like with investigations” Brown said.
Lawmakers gave the attorney general’s office investigative authority two years ago when they passed the Police Accountability Act, and sponsors of this year’s bill have said the plan all along was for the office to have prosecutorial powers also.