AUGUSTA – The Legislature’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee voted March 3 to advance a proposal by Rep. Lori Gramlich, D-Old Orchard Beach, to strengthen law enforcement education and training standards in Maine. The vote was 7-3 with three members absent.

As amended, LD 1447 would create a stakeholder group of policymakers and experts to review current standards and best practices in training law enforcement officers, including training and education around racial justice and issues such as substance use disorder, behavioral health and homelessness. The stakeholder group would be charged with developing recommendations to enhance recruitment from underrepresented communities and improve training and education standards. The bill requires the stakeholder group to report back to the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee with those recommendations by Dec. 5, 2022.

“Our law enforcement officers are responding to and encountering difficult and varied situations every day. This bill is about making sure they are prepared and have the best tools in their toolboxes so they can be safe and effective,” said Gramlich. “The world is vastly different from the days when my grandfather and uncle served the community as police officers. Our education and training standards need to keep up for the sake of our women and men in uniform as well as the communities they serve.”

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, at least 34 states require training or education on physical and mental health conditions, while at least 26 mandate bias reduction training. A 2017 study showed that nearly one in five local law enforcement agencies in the nation required entry-level officers to have some college credits. The study found the biggest factor in educational requirements by local agencies was state-level standards.

The measure will face consideration by the full Legislature in the coming weeks.

Gramlich is a longtime social worker who is currently serving her second term in the Maine House. She is a member of the Taxation Committee and the Environment and Natural Resources Committee.