The Maine House of Representatives has unanimously approved a measure that would give trustees of the Maine Criminal Justice Academy more authority to develop disciplinary standards.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. David McCrea, a Democrat from Fort Fairfield, would direct the academy’s board of trustees to adopt standards of conduct requiring that any law enforcement officer seeking renewal of their certificate, or any new applicant, be subject to disciplinary action after a violation.

The bill would also designate that any written decisions and findings by the board are public records under the Maine Freedom of Access Act.

The legislation, spurred by the high-profile killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others by police last year, is one of many in Maine and other states designed to better hold police accountable for misconduct.

“The overwhelming majority of police and corrections officers are great at their very stressful jobs,” McCrea said in a statement. “However, nothing undermines the public trust more than when there isn’t accountability in law enforcement.”

Currently, police chiefs across the state are required by law to report to the board criminal conduct by police, regardless of whether the officer faces charges for that conduct. For instance, if an officer drove drunk but was not arrested for operating under the influence, that case would go before the Criminal Justice board.

But not all police misconduct can be defined by criminal laws, leaving trustees of the academy with an incomplete picture of officer transgressions throughout Maine. For example, an officer who lies or is untruthful or commits sexual harassment might not currently have their case reported to the trustees.

The rule-making process would involve many stakeholders and include comment from the public and police, and if successful, could give the criminal justice academy board authority to take action in a greater number of police misconduct cases.

“This bill gives the board the authority to create their own review and disciplinary process, creating a greater sense of ownership and responsibility for the resulting standards,” McCrea added. “This is a meaningful opportunity to improve policing in Maine, led by those who know the work best.”

McCrea sought input from Rick Desjardins, director of the Maine Criminal Justice Academy, Maine Commissioner of Public Safety Michael Sauschuck, and the Maine Attorney General’s Office before drafting his bill.

Additional votes in the House and Senate are still needed before the legislation heads to Gov. Janet Mills for a signature or veto.


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