Police Reform Workgroup Recommendations Issued 

The General Assembly’s Workgroup on Public Safety and Policing Issued its recommendations yesterday, just in time for the start of the legislative session tomorrow. This Post article has a good summary of the situation and some reactions.

A Maryland legislative panel on Monday offered sweeping changes in police policies, including giving officers periodic psychological evaluations and allowing the public to attend police trial boards.

Under the proposed changes, residents would also be given more time to file brutality complaints.

The Public Safety and Policing Work Group voted to submit 21 recommendations to Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) and House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) for the General Assembly to consider. It spent the past six months reviewing police practices and devising ways to improve police-community relations.

Here’s the full list of recommendations:

Workgroup on Public Safety and Policing
January 11, 2016
Recommendations

RECOMMENDATION NO. 1: The LEOBR complaint filing deadline triggering the requirement that disciplinary action be undertaken by a law enforcement agency shall be extended from 90 days to a year and a day.

RECOMMENDATION NO. 2: The requirement for notarization of a complaint alleging excessive force shall be eliminated, and replaced with a requirement that a complaint be signed by the complainant under the penalty of perjury.

RECOMMENDATION NO. 3: The public complaint process in each jurisdiction shall be uniform throughout the State, streamlined, and publicized on department websites. A complainant shall be required to divulge their identity in a manner that is sufficient for a department to contact them and verify the legitimacy of the complaint. When there is a final disposition of a complaint, the complainant shall be informed of the outcome.

RECOMMENDATION NO. 4: The time period for retaining an attorney for the internal investigation and disciplinary process under LEOBR shall be reduced from 10 days to 5 days.

RECOMMENDATION NO. 5: As is the case in some jurisdictions, all law enforcement agencies in the State shall open their administrative LEOBR hearing board proceedings to the public. The General Assembly shall strike the statutory prohibition against citizen participation to allow a jurisdiction to permit a citizen who has received training in LEOBR to sit as a member of the administrative hearing board.

RECOMMENDATION NO. 6: The law shall be changed to ensure that whistleblower protections are given to protect from retaliation officers who participate in investigations or who raise issues for investigation.

RECOMMENDATION NO. 7: Each law enforcement agency shall require a use of force/incident report to be completed by the end of the shift unless the officer is disabled.

RECOMMENDATION 8: Official department policies and collective bargaining agreements are public documents but are not easily available to the public. All department policies and collective bargaining agreements shall be available online.

RECOMMENDATION NO. 9: The Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services is primarily responsible for the administration of State prisons and correctional services with few law enforcement trained personnel or sworn law enforcement officers in the Department. Law enforcement training and standards are significantly different from that of the State correctional system. An independent Maryland Police Training and Standards Commission (MPTSC) shall be established to focus solely on best practices, standards, and training in law enforcement and to create uniformity in policing practices across the State.

RECOMMENDATION 10: The independent MPTSC shall include: representatives of State and local government; representatives of State and local law enforcement administrators; representatives of State and local law enforcement personnel; a representative of the Fraternal Order of Police; a representative of local State’s Attorneys; legislative members; members with expertise in community policing, policing standards, and mental health; and citizen members without relationships to law enforcement.

RECOMMENDATION NO. 11: The Commission shall require each law enforcement agency to establish a confidential and non-punitive early intervention policy for dealing with officers who receive three or more citizen complaints within a 12 month period. (Such a policy may not prevent the investigation of or imposition of discipline for a particular complaint.)

RECOMMENDATION NO. 12: The MPTSC shall develop and require in-service anti-discrimination and use of force de-escalation training every other year for all law enforcement officers.

RECOMMENDATION NO. 13 The MPTSC shall evaluate and modernize recruitment standards and practices to increase diversity in law enforcement departments and shall develop media strategies for recruiting women, African American, Latino, and other minority candidates.

RECOMMENDATION 14: The MPTSC shall develop a State certification that is transferrable between departments.

RECOMMENDATION 15: The MPTSC shall develop and require annual reporting to the Commission by each department on the number of serious officer involved incidents, the number of officers disciplined, and the type of discipline that was administered.

RECOMMENDATION 16: The Workgroup recommends that the MPTSC review the National Institute of Justice example use of force continuum and develop by regulation a set of best practices and standards for use of force.

RECOMMENDATION 17: The MPTSC shall develop standards for mandated psychological evaluation after traumatic incidents and for law enforcement officers returning from combat deployment as well as periodic psychological evaluations for all officers as determined appropriate by the Commission. The MPTSC shall also amend the Code of Maryland Regulations to require that an applicant for police officer undergo a pre-employment psychological evaluation by a psychologist.

RECOMMENDATION 18: The MPTSC, in consultation with DHMH, shall establish a confidential hotline that is available for law enforcement personnel to contact to speak to a trained peer law enforcement officer or a mental health professional who can assist with initial counseling advice and confidential referral to appropriate programs as needed.

RECOMMENDATION 19: The MPTSC shall develop a Police Complaint Mediation Program in which certain non-violent complaints made against police officers are referred out of the standard complaint process and to voluntary mediation to be conducted by an independent mediation service.

RECOMMENDATION 20: The MPTSC shall develop best practices for establishment and implementation of a Community Policing Program in each jurisdiction. Annually, each department shall file their community policing program with the MPTSC and the Commission shall review each program and offer comments to the jurisdiction. All community policing programs shall be posted online.

RECOMMENDATION 21: State grants and funding shall be increased to provide matching funds for local jurisdictions to increase community law enforcement programs such as the Police Athletic Leagues (PALs), the Explorers Program, and similar recreational activities. The MPTSC and GOOCP shall also provide technical assistance to departments in applying for any federal, State or foundation grants available for these purposes.

RECOMMENDATION 22: Incentives shall be provided by the State and local jurisdictions to encourage law enforcement officers to live in the communities in which they police, particularly in high crime, high poverty areas. These incentives shall include measures like take home patrol cars, property tax credits, renter’s tax credits, and State and local income tax deductions for officers who live in the jurisdiction in which they work.

RECOMMENDATION 23: The LEOBR shall be amended to require that for use of force incidents, the trial board shall be composed of one member selected by the Chief or Sheriff, one member selected by the FOP/affected employee, and one member who is mutually agreed upon. The members must be selected from a pool of police officers who are not from the affected officer’s jurisdiction. One member must be of equal rank to the affected employee. A collective bargaining agreement may specify a different method of choosing a trial board.

The issuance of the report prompted a reaction from the Maryland Coalition for Justice & Police Accountability:

The coalition recognizes the positive votes today by the Maryland Public Safety and Policing Workgroup, which are an important start to allow for increased civilian participation in misconduct investigations, more transparency for the community and victims, and more robust training. We appreciate the time and effort put in by the workgroup. Nonetheless, there remain important areas that need improvement to ensure real accountability, especially in communities targeted by racially biased over-policing. Reforms that are still needed include lifting the restriction on who can file a police brutality complaint, lifting the restriction that only sworn law enforcement personnel may investigate complaints, and requiring that complainants identify themselves. In addition, we are concerned about a last-minute addition to the recommendations that would change the composition of the trial board to give the FOP a greater role in the discipline process.

Sounds about right to me. The preliminaries are over – the heavy lifting starts tomorrow. 

No Tamir Rice Indictment

Bet you’re shocked by this news.

After more than a year of investigation, a Cleveland grand jury declined to bring charges against either of the two police officers involved in the November 2014 shooting of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy who was playing with a toy weapon in a park.

Cuyahoga County prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty announced the decision Monday afternoon, adding that he did not recommend that grand jury bringing charges and that he believes both of the Cleveland police officers involved were reasonable in their belief that Rice had a real weapon.

Let’s remember Maryland Scramble’s first rule of grand juries: what the prosecutor wants, the prosecutor gets. Only the prosecutor presents evidence. There’s no cross-examination, defense lawyers aren’t even allowed in the room.

The better question is: why didn’t the prosecutor want to indict this particular ham sandwich?

Two police officers, 26-year-old Timothy Loehmann and 46-year-old Frank Garmback, responded after receiving a police dispatch call “of a male black sitting on a swing and pointing a gun at people” in a city park. A caller reported that a male was pointing “a pistol” at random people in the Cudell Recreation Center. At the beginning of the call and again in the middle he says of the pistol “it’s probably fake.” Toward the end of the two-minute call, the caller stated “he is probably a juvenile.” However, this information was not relayed to Loehmann or Garmback on the initial dispatch. The officers reported that upon their arrival, Rice reached towards a gun in his waistband. Loehmann fired two shots before the zone car came to a halt and within two seconds of arriving on the scene, hitting Rice once in the torso. Neither officer administered any first aid to Rice after the shooting. He died on the following day.

The officer fired two shots before GETTING OUT OF THE CAR. That’s not a “perfect storm of humsn error,” as the Post quotes Timothy McGinty, but an execution of a black child by an out of control police officer. All you have to do is imagine what would have happened if Tamir Rice had been a white kid in the suburbs. First off it wouldn’t have happened, but if it did, there’d damn well be a ham sandwich indicted by now.

Until black lives matter more than they do now, any claim that “all lives matter” is nothing but a dodge or a defense for police vigilantism against minority communities. It’s not one thing that needs to change in the criminal justice system, it’s everything.

The Most Important Veto Override

In 16 days, the General Assembly goes back to work. There will be many story lines, not least of which seeing how things go for the five officeholders who are running for Congress in CD4 and CD8. But the first order of business for the legislature will be the prospect of whether to override Governor Larry Hogan’s four vetoes. There are strategic considerations to discuss, and there is the not so far away anymore 2018 election to think about, but today I want to focus on one of the bills that Hogan vetoed, HB980, that would have restored voting rights to approximately 43,000 individuals with felony convictions when they get out of jail. Current law delays such voting rights until the individual completes parole or probation, a process which can take many years to complete.

The lead sponsor of this bill is my friend Delegate Cory McCray of Baltimore. He has established a Facebook page, Marylanders for Voting Rights, which can be found here. A number of folks have done videos calling for the Hogan veto to be overridden. Here’s a few.

Author Wes Moore:

Author Kevin Shird:

Community activist Eric Booker:

Cory has developed a very nice map showing where the likely beneficiaries of this law reside. Baltimore City has by far the most citizens returning from felony incarceration. Big shocker, I know. I bet Larry Hogan knows that, too, wink, wink. 

The final vote on this bill in the House was 82-57. 85 votes (60%) are required to override a veto. 81 Democrats voted yes. Speaker Mike Busch needs to find four votes. One of those votes will almost assuredly come from new Delegate Susie Proctor, whose late husband Jim Proctor missed the vote last year. That leaves three votes. Delegate Michael Jackson of Prince George’s County did not vote on the bill last year. That could be a second vote. Busch then would need to find two votes from among the eight delegates listed below who voted no on the bill in 2015.

Charlie Barkley (Montgomery)
Pam Beidle (Anne Arundel)
Eric Bromwell (Baltimore County)
Ned Carey (Anne Arundel)
Mark Chang (Anne Arundel)
Mary Ann Lisanti (Harford)
Ted Sophocleus (Anne Arundel)
C.T. Wilson (Charles)

All three members of District 32 (Beidle, Chang, and Sophocleus) voted no. LD32 is one of the most competitive districts in the state. Ned Carey and Mary Ann Lisanti represent single member subdistricts carved from larger Republican areas. Eric Bromwell represents LD8, a moderate to conservative district in eastern Baltimore County where Bromwell is the only remaining Democratic delegate. Both Charlie Barkley and C.T. Wilson are noted contrarians (as is Bromwell) from electorally safe districts.

I’m betting Busch can get the votes he needs. But a little (nice, please!) push from you to your favorite delegate or three on this list wouldn’t hurt either. Because this bill should become law. Let’s help get this done.

More On Money Bail In Maryland

I wrote about the problems with Maryland’s bail system in criminal cases back in September. Summary: our system sucks. One thing I didn’t write about back then was the current legislative stalemate over how to fix the system following a court ruling. A quick history primer:

Back in 2012, the Court of Appeals held that, contrary to what was actually happening, defendants had a right to counsel at bail hearings, including the initial determination by a commissioner. This was a bombshell ruling – in FY 2011, District Court commissioners conducted 176,523 initial appearance hearings, 30% of them in Baltimore City alone. The costs do providing counsel for all those hearings was and remains staggering.

In response to that ruling, the General Assembly in 2013 set out to restructure the bail system in Maryland. Three legislative sessions later, no resolution has been reached. Why not? On the surface, it’s a dispute between the House of Delegates and the State Senate. The Senate had been in favor of more comprehensive reform, while the House supports more limited reform and at least some resistance to the court ruling. Now the issue appears largely dead.

But on a more basic level, change has been slow to come because of the influence of the bail bond lobby. Being a bail bondsman is a lucrative business, and its best source of profits is poor families desperate to get their loved ones out of jail. As my last story pointed out, “defendants of color are given higher bail amounts and are detained more often than white defendants.”

The Washington Post editorialized in 2013:

The bail bond industry has powerful allies in Annapolis, where many lawmakers are trial lawyers. Eliminating the system wholesale may not be politically possible, at least for now. But the idea should get fair consideration. Even if the state is compelled to hire scores of public defenders to ensure defendants’ constitutional rights, it can also make the system fairer and more sensible by providing non-monetary means of encouraging defendants to appear in court.

As is so often the case, the Post overshot the mark by smearing every “trial lawyer” in the legislature, and there aren’t “many” such lawyers any longer, as the number comes down every election. But the Post isn’t wrong. There are impediments to real reform. Hint: one of the principal opponents of real bail reform in the legislature is no longer there, while a current legislator is now in a stronger position to advocate the industry’s interests than was the case when the editorial was published. Moving on . . .

OK, that was a super long intro, but here’s the point. Nothing is moving in the legislature any time soon. Tens of millions of dollars are being spent on ad hoc efforts to get lawyers to cover initial bail hearings. Racial and socioeconomic effects persist. Time for a new strategy. The rallying cry of the “trial lawyers”: to the courthouse!

The lawsuit filed by the Equal Justice Under Law in San Francisco federal court in October seeks to abolish the cash bail system in the city, state — and the country. It’s the ninth lawsuit the center has filed in seven states.

“The bail system in most states is a two-tiered system,” said center founder Phil Telfeyan. “One for the wealthy and one for everyone else.”

The center has settled four lawsuits, convincing smaller jails in states in the South to do away with cash bail requirements for most charges.

Telfeyan said a win in California could add momentum to the center’s goal to rid the country of the cash bail system, which the lawyers say is used by most county jails in all 50 states. The federal system usually allows non-violent suspects free without bail pending trial and denies bail to serious and violent suspects.

The bail bond industry ignored the suit originally, but has now jumped in after government lawyers in San Francisco responded with insufficient vigor to defend the bail bond industry’s profits. Sound familiar?

But on Monday, lawyers for the California Bail Agents Association filed court papers seeking to formally oppose the San Francisco lawsuit. The association argues that government lawyers for San Francisco and the state are offering only “tepid” opposition to the California lawsuit.

San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi argues that most jail inmates are awaiting resolution of minor, non-violent crimes and that letting them free while awaiting court hearings will save the city millions of dollars. Mirkarimi said non-violent suspects can be monitored electronically and with frequent visits from law enforcement officials to ensure they don’t flee the area and attend all their court hearings.

The for profit bail bond industry has outlived its usefulness, if it ever had any. It’s rife with corruption, it’s insufficiently regulated, and it perpetuates existing de facto discrimination in the court system. It’s time for it to go, and there are alternatives.

A lawsuit in Maryland like the one in San Francisco would help to bring about real and necessary change. The only change that’s happened yet was started by such a lawsuit. Now it’s time to go for the home run ball. Who’s up for this? 

Memo to Fred Hiatt: Your increasing neocon sensibilities are affecting your reasoning processes (shockingly, the Justice Policy Institute analysis linked above notes the connection between the bail bond industry and ALEC, the right wing state legislative arm, creating alarming levels of cognitive dissonance for the Post, I’m sure). Dude, sometimes it’s those nasty “trial lawyers” that bring about the changes for good in this country, and I mean, y’know, Brown v. Board of Education and all that? Put the blame where it belongs: the bail bond industry.

California Anti-Transgender Ballot Measure Fails

Here’s some good news as we find ourselves in the midst of the longest night of the year. Light a candle rather than curse the darkness, right? Well, here’s a candle.

Backers of a proposed ballot initiative that sought to require transgender people to use the public restrooms that correspond with their biological sex say they have failed to qualify the measure for the California ballot.

Monday was the deadline for the initiative’s sponsors to submit voter signatures to county election offices for verification.

Karen England of the Privacy for All campaign said in a statement that the volunteer-led effort fell short of the 365,880 signatures needed to get the initiative on the November 2016 ballot. England did not reveal by how much.

I despise the referendum and initiative process. It’s used disproportionately against racial and ethnic minority groups, gays and lesbians and now transgender people. Besides that, it’s completely at odds with our representative form of government. We don’t vote by plebiscite on every law, we rely on our elected representatives to make good choices (we can replace them if they don’t), and the initiative and referendum process is a failed vestige of the progressive era of the early 20th century. Whatever utility it may have once had, it should be done away with today. It encourages a know-nothing majoritarian mob mentality that almost never produces good outcomes.

Guest Blog: Dana Beyer On Discrimination And Fear

A few days after the holiday, but it’s still relevant. Dana Beyer’s Huffington Post column from Thanksgiving Day. Civil rights should matter to everyone. It could be you next time. Reprinted with her permission.

Thanksgiving and Its Discontented in Montgomery County, Maryland

Thanksgiving is our annual day for family and friends, one divorced from any religion other than the civic religion of America. It’s a holiday all but native Americans can embrace, from the newest immigrants to the earliest European settlers. As the country has evolved we’ve found innumerable ways to express our gratitude for being Americans. Yet this year, in a month when our attention has been riveted to waves of Syrian refugees flooding Europe, and punctuated by atrocities in Paris, Beirut, Kenya, and Mali, one of our American communities is once again under attack — Muslim Americans.

Montgomery County is home to one of the most diverse communities in America. I’m very proud to serve on our county’s Committee on Hate/Violence. We celebrate our differences with festivals that bring everyone together, as well as encouraging all our communities to share the bounty of their neighbors. It isn’t easy to do that, however, when the leading candidate for the Republican nomination for president, Donald Trump, calls for registration of Muslim Americans. “I would certainly implement that. Absolutely.” Happy Thanksgiving, all.
The response was fast and furious. One tweet from the Muslim community echoed Pastor Niemoller from Nazi Germany: “I Will Stand Up For Muslim Citizens Because I Want Help When The GOP Come For ME.” Many of the other Republican candidates rushed to distance themselves from Trump (for which, I suppose, we can be thankful this holiday). Reminiscent of Romney’s “binders full of women” from 2012, Carson spun away from Muslims by advocating “for a ‘database on everybody who comes into this country,’ not Muslims specifically.” Cruz, Rubio, Bush and Kasich demurred. Than Trump doubled down as his style, going huuuuge:
“We’re going to have to look at the mosques. We’re going to have to look very, very carefully,” Trump said. Later in the day, he told NBC News that he “would certainly implement” a database system.
“There should be a lot of systems, beyond databases,” he said. “We should have a lot of systems.”

All this trash talking had the expected impact on the Muslim residents of Montgomery County and neighboring regions. In a series of telephone interviews, a number of our neighbors spoke of their pain and fear.
I will begin with Imam Faizal Khan, Co-chair of the Montgomery County Faith Advisory Council and the Islamic Society of the Washington area, who said:

It is very frustrating and difficult to control these random acts of violence. These are not Muslims. Politicians keep on talking about radical Islam. There is no radical Islam. In Islam, even in wartime, we are instructed to find peaceful solutions and avoid harming women and children and innocent people.
We can’t allow these terrorists to hijack our religion.

Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation about Islam in the media and a lot of incendiary rhetoric by some politicians against Islam and Muslims. For example: Carson in one of his speeches refers to Muslims as ‘dogs.’ The daily rhetoric in turn is translated into bigotry and acts of violence against Muslims.

Shahnaz Baten, a social worker with the Islamic Society of Maryland, from Gaithersburg:

This is a total human tragedy. Our hearts go out to the people of France. We know how it feels. Muslims know firsthand the horrible impact of terrorism. They themselves are victims of ISIS.
These are not Muslims. According to the scripture – in war, you fight face to face. You only fight those who transgress against you. You don’t hide in mosques, and hospitals, and schools. How do you justify suicide? The media is continuously calling them Muslim terrorists. It is not fair to me as a Muslim.

It upsets me terribly to see people who are not Muslim scholars speak so freely about Islam. Why aren’t our imams, those who have spent their lives studying the scripture, getting invited to speak on our behalf?

I listen every day to Fox and CNN and read the newspapers. I only see and hear about those blowing up themselves and killing others in the name of Islam. All the terrible bombardment is in turn translated into acts of violence against Muslims. They are not saying much about ISIS being responsible for killing more Muslims around the world.

I am most disturbed about the response of the Governor against Syrian Refugees. Governor Hogan’s response to punish populations that are victims themselves of terrorism and find themselves guilty by association just because they are Muslims is terribly unfortunate.This cannot be the U.S. position. We are the beacon of hope, justice and fairness for all immigrants from around the world. Syrian refugees should not be the exception.

Imam Mohamed Sheikh Mohamed of the Muslim Community Center, Silver Spring:

Our community gets scared when they hear of acts of violence around the country in response to the Paris terrorist acts.
It is very disappointing that the media seems to hear from one source of information. Some of the Muslims they interview are not scholars and, therefore, do not convey an accurate picture of Islam and the Quran’s message.

We need to collectively choose someone among the Muslim scholars community in the U.S. who is an articulate speaker who will be assigned to the media and convey an accurate picture of Islam to the world.

Farouq Musa, a senior Ambassador with the Muslim Community Center in Silver Spring:

ISIS is not Islam. Islam is against the killing of innocent civilians. In the Quran, if you kill one person it is as if you have killed the entire humanity and if you save one life, it is as if you have saved humanity.
While in Montgomery County we have not experienced any acts of violence against the Muslim communities, still we are very concerned that eventually all the negative media coverage about Islam and Muslims could end up inciting acts of violence against us. We have been advised to stay vigilant.
I worry about our little children and teenagers in schools, about them getting bullied. They have no way of defending themselves.

Many people don’t really know about us. They don’t realize that Muslims are actively engaged with the interfaith communities. Our food pantries, our clothing drives, our medical clinic, our Ramadan daily free dinners for all (at MCC) for an entire month, are all offered with and in support of the interfaith community.

Finally, Rashid Makhdoom, a retired State Department executive and an active community volunteer, from North Potomac:

ISIS is the result of U.S action in Iraq. They are destabilizing the entire Middle East. More Muslims have suffered at the hands of ISIS than any other religious groups. ISIS is a horrible nightmare for all Muslims. They rely on the fear factor to spread terror throughout the world.
Some of our politicians are also using the politics of fear through their dangerous and inflammatory statements. They are spreading terror in the hearts of Muslim citizens throughout the U.S. This whole environment of fear will probably have a very negative psychological effect on our children as well.

I am very concerned about the backlash from the Paris terrorist attack on the Syrian refugees. They are themselves the victims of ISIS. Why are we punishing them once more for a sin they did commit? The U.S. is made up of immigrants. Mr. Trump’s family would not be here if we did not have the immigration policy we have.

It is against basic U.S. principles and our value system to turn our backs to those who have been persecuted and those who are seeking liberty and a better life. Doesn’t the Statute of Liberty says ‘ Give me your tired— Your poor–etc.?’

When we gather around the table on Thursday, let us remember that only 5% of Americans polled in 1938 on the eve of Kristallnacht wanted to increase quotas for Jewish refugees, and 2/3 wanted to actively keep them out. We know how that played out. Three years later my European family had been exterminated, save for a remnant that escaped to Palestine. And Trump would create a registry and even consider requiring ID cards for Muslim Americans?
A former medical school professor of mine, Martin Seligman, who created “positive psychology,” encourages people to express gratitude for even small, useless things on a daily basis. Take a moment before the repast to question your soul, and be grateful we live in Montgomery County, but know we can always do better.

Transgender Day Of Remembrance

Today is the annual observance of Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR), which has been observed since 1998. Dana Beyer wrote the following piece specifically about the progress that has been made in the past decade, but as can be seen from the murder of Zella Ziona just last month right here in Montgomery County, we still have a long way to go – politically, legislatively and culturally. And that’s before we get to the debacle in Houston, which we’ll leave for another day.

This week is dedicated to the transgender community’s remembering its dead, and celebrating its life and the growing cultural awareness. The week here in Maryland has been bookended by the Day of Remembrance ceremony at the Rockville United Church on Saturday, November 14th, and the traditional International Trans Day of Remembrance events this Friday, November 20th, with events in Baltimore and downtown DC.

This year we gathered to remember, with her family, Zella Ziona, the first trans woman murdered in Montgomery County. Zella was one of twenty-plus African-American trans women killed this year, just as similar numbers have been killed each year for the preceding two decades. We will not stop remembering the dead, including those who ended their own lives, but we can work towards preventing the list from getting longer.

And we are doing that. Zella’s mother and sister were present and spoke to the crowd, directly thanking Montgomery County Police Chief Tom Manger and his deputies for apprehending the alleged killer within 24 hours. The state’s attorney, John McCarthy, charged him hours later. Such an effective, rapid response is basically unheard of anywhere else in the country, but our community’s public safety team pulled it off.

Unfortunately, there were trans activists who harassed the officers as they were trying to do their job. Similarly, the keynote address painted a picture of Montgomery County and Maryland circa 2004, failing to take note of the passage of anti-discrimination laws in this county and others, and the state as a whole, as well as federal employment coverage under Title VII. This is a time when we mourn the victims, but should not be one where we choose to end up re-victimizing ourselves by choice.

We have laws for which the community fought, and those laws have begun to be implemented. Trans persons need to know their rights, so they can move forward with their lives with increasing self-confidence, rather than looking over their shoulder expecting the worst. Ultimately it comes down to taking care of ourselves, and using the tools available.

May we all go forward to the new year in peace and prosperity.

Amen.

Our Dystopian Local Governments 

This story is just appalling. How local political infighting led to competing police forces, the issuance of tickets for municipal infractions to bolster the budget of one side of the dispute, the rank conflicts of interest that permeate rural towns (particularly in the South), and the hiring of clearly unqualified and dangerous police officers (one of whom was previously charged – twice! – with aggravated rape and has five lawsuits pending against him). Ultimately, a six year old autistic boy is dead after being shot five times while the car he was riding in was riddled with 18 bullets.

You can’t make this shit up, folks. There’s so much to read but let’s start here.

Stafford has been charged twice with aggravated rape in nearby Rapides Parish. According to the indictment, one 15-year-old victim said Stafford committed rape on the victim’s birthday in 2004. In a separate incident, a second victim said Stafford committed rape in 2011.

In 2012, the charges were inexplicably dropped. In court documents, the attorney listed as representing Stafford is Piazza, the same judge he now works under as a marshal deputy.
Monique Metoyer, who prosecuted the rape case, declined to explain why the charges were dropped. But she confirmed that Marksville’s judge served as Stafford’s lawyer.

In what universe is it OK for a judge to represent people in criminal court? And what hopelessly compromised judge would do this, AND then, knowing of the charges, actually proceed to hire the guy?

If an author opened his or her next dystopian novel this way, a publisher would reject the premise as too outrageous. Life out-crazies art altogether too often.

How To Take Down A University President

Tim Wolfe was hired to be the president of the University of Missouri in 2012, vowing to run the university “like a tech company.”

Needless to say, that didn’t go well. Last week, a graduate student went on a hunger strike over Wolfe’s failure to address racist incidents on campus. Jonathan Butler said he wouldn’t end the strike until Wolfe was removed from office.

Then on Saturday, the Missouri football team announced that it too would strike, refusing to play its next game November 14 against Brigham Young.

Today Tim Wolfe resigned. The Post has a good assessment of the situation going forward.

There are a few reasons that the football team’s protest garnered more attention — and was probably more likely to yield results. Given that this is fundamentally a political protest, it probably won’t come as a surprise that those reasons overlap heavily with methods of leveraging political power.

First, the team is the public face of the student body. Any number of people who live in the state but don’t have relatives in the University of Missouri system likely know student-athletes by name. Butler did a good job of making his concerns known, but having students already known and respected by the community make a similar argument lowers the bar for sympathy to the cause.

Second, the team leveraged pressure on an immediate timeline. Next Saturday, the Missouri Tigers are scheduled to play the Brigham Young Cougars. As Saturday neared, the school was under increasing pressure to resolve the dispute as public attention to the conflict continued to grow. Butler’s threat was more dire, of course, but its duration was unclear.

Third, the team’s protest threatened immediate economic damage to the university. This is perhaps the biggest issue at play. A contract between Missouri and BYU obtained by the Kansas City Star reveals that cancellation on the part of the Tigers would result in a $1 million fine to be paid to BYU within 30 days of the cancellation.

Given the increasing attention being paid to racial justice issues generally, the fact that football players are more likely to be minorities, and the huge economic importance of athletics to colleges and universities, I don’t expect that this will be the last time a boycott like this happens. Or that it succeeds. The leverage is very, very strong.