In 2021, Maryland lawmakers passed legislation aimed at making sweeping reforms to policing following the murder of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, in Minneapolis and protests across the United States.

The Maryland Police Accountability Act of 2021 requires officers to intervene to “prevent or terminate” a use of force beyond what’s authorized under the law. The provision went into effect on July 1, 2022.

“The issues we have a lot of times in dealing with law enforcement is omission and commission are the same thing,” Del. C.T. Wilson, a Democrat from Charles County, said during debate on the floor of the Maryland House of Delegates.

“This bill doesn’t ask you to perform miracles. It doesn’t ask you to read minds,” he later added. “It asks you to be a well-trained professional in dealing with your law enforcement responsibilities.”

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Baltimore State’s Attorney Ivan Bates recently obtained indictments against three Baltimore County Police officers, with two of them accused of failing to intervene when a corporal assaulted a man who was handcuffed and shackled in a patrol vehicle.

Bates said it’s the first case of its kind that his office has brought since the change in the law.

“Gone are the days where officers can just stand by and turn a blind eye as their fellow officers violate the individual rights or do worse to suspects or to the citizens or residents,” Bates said at a news conference on Tuesday.

On Sept. 27, 2023, Cpl. Zachary Small fired nine shots of pepper spray directly into the face of Justin Russell, 32, of Southwest Baltimore, and then closed the door while he was handcuffed and shackled in the back of a patrol vehicle outside Johns Hopkins Hospital, according to the indictment.

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Next, Small threw Russell to the ground and then held him by his hair for 28 seconds, body-camera video shows, while he repeatedly asked for help and stated that he could not breathe. “You asked for it!” Small said. “You remember this! I warned you!”

“This isn’t f------ McDonald’s,” he later added. “You don’t get it your way.”

Police did not call for help or give first aid, the indictment alleges, and took Russell to the precinct in Woodlawn.

Small, 51, is facing charges including second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office. Prosecutors dismissed a charge of first-degree assault.

Over the weekend, Bates said, he spent time reevaluating the case. He said he felt that there were some evidentiary issues with the first-degree assault count and made the call to dismiss it.

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Officers Justin Graham-Moore, 24, and Jacob Roos, 28, are each charged with misconduct in office.

Small’s attorney, Brian Thompson, has stated that his client did nothing wrong and looks forward to defending himself in court.

Oana Brooks, Graham-Moore’s and Roos’ attorney, has declined to comment.

“I expect members of the Baltimore County Police Department to treat all people with the utmost dignity and respect,” Baltimore County Police Chief Robert McCullough said in a statement.

Bates said his office must hold everyone accountable based on the law.

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The Baltimore County Police Department, he said, brought the case to the attention of the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office and fully cooperated with its Public Trust and Police Integrity Unit.

Prosecutors reviewed the body-camera video from all officers who were on the scene, Bates said. He said his office charged all the cases that it felt the state could prove in court.

“Our whole focus and purpose is not just to charge the police because they’re the police,” he said, “but to charge individuals that we felt we could prove beyond a reasonable doubt had broken the law.”

Small, Graham-Moore and Roos received summonses and are scheduled to appear for arraignment on March 13.

Two Baltimore Police officers charged in separate, unrelated cases

Officer Alexia Davis, 26, a more than five-year veteran, is charged with misconduct in office, reckless driving, negligent driving and related offenses in a crash that happened while she was on duty on Sinclair Lane between Bowleys Lane and Moravia Road in Frankford on June 17, 2023.

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Detective June Hall, 51, a more than 27-year veteran, is charged with theft, making false entries in public records and misconduct in office. She’s accused of recording hours that she did not work on her time sheets and using police vehicles for personal use between Nov. 11, 2022, and May 3, 2023.

Chaz Ball, Davis’ and Hall’s attorney, declined to comment.

In an email, Lindsey Eldridge, a spokesperson for the Baltimore Police Department, said Davis is suspended with pay and assigned to administrative roles.

Hall, she said, is suspended without pay.

Correction: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Jacob Roos’ surname.

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