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February 14, 2017

Lowe House Office Building


House Judiciary Committee
6 Bladen Street
Annapolis, MD 21401

Re: HB0739 -- Public Safety - SWAT Teams - Reporting and Limitations

The undersigned respectfully submits this written testimony in support of HB0739, an act entitled "Public
Safety SWAT Teams Reporting and Limitations," introduced on February 2, 2017, by Delegate Moon
and others.

At the outset, I am a former New York City and United Nations prosecutor, and fully appreciate the
challenges law enforcement face each day to keep our communities safe, from investigating community
complaints to securing rapidly changing situations. The last thing any of us want is to pass burdensome
legislation, devoid from the reality of good police work, or drafted only as a punitive measure against the
police. But House Bill 739 is precisely the type of well-drafted, carefully considered legislation that
would make our communities safer, law enforcement more transparent to the communities it serves, and
police departments more accountable to the laws they were sworn to uphold.

By mandating that police departments formally report and keep track of, for instance, SWAT
deployments, would allow supervisors, change makers, and the Governor's Office of Crime Control and
Prevention to formally identify and address any troublesome or ineffective patterns of conduct before they
turn into entrenched, systematic problems. Similarly, that same objective data will very likely shed light
on existing systematic problems about the use of police force and personnel, particularly as it relates to
the disparate impact of intrusive police action against communities of color.

The way I see it, one of the main effects of House Bill 739's reporting requirements are to provide the
space for the hard conversations about best practices, race, and the impact that the use of police force in
our communities has on our children, families, and individual civil liberties as defined in our state and
federal constitutions. We should not be running away from these conversations.

Surely, in our current political climate, we may feel wary of questioning law enforcement, especially
when it comes to policing tactics. But this should not be the case. Police officers are public employees,
who are entrusted with the power to use lethal force. Should they not deserve scrutiny? House Bill 739 is
just one, but important method, in which we as a community can ensure that our police departments are
serving all of us fairly.

Respectfully submitted:

ELI R. KOPPEL
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