An organization representing criminal defense attorneys in Maine has issued a public statement on the death of George Floyd at the hands of police.
The Maine Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (MACDL) said: “MACDL condemns the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Mr. Floyd’s murder and the protests it ignited are a flashpoint in the long-standing battle against systemic racism in our criminal justice system and country at large. Condemning Mr. Floyd’s senseless murder is the easy part. The true challenge is changing the entrenched and unjust racism that pervades our criminal justice system.
“Police departments must treat all allegations of misconduct against officers seriously and handle investigations with accountability and transparency. The State should maintain a database of complaints against officers that can be viewed by the public. Police departments should regularly review this database and terminate police officers with a history of excessive force and racial insensitivity. The State must mandate training and continuing education for all police agency personnel on racism, implicit bias and use of force. Every police officer in Maine should be required to wear a body camera that cannot be turned off at the officer’s discretion. This is the bare minimum of what is required to maintain the public’s trust in law enforcement.
“Maine is not immune from its police officers using excessive force. Video has emerged which shows that only days ago in Bangor, the police aggressively pinned a 13-year-old boy to the ground, and may have broken his elbow, because he committed a tobacco violation—he was smoking. This is unacceptable. Officers need to know when and how to use the appropriate amount of force, and they need to be held accountable when they fail to do so.
“Importantly, the police cannot be tasked with policing themselves. Therefore, MACDL calls on all State law enforcement agencies and Governor Mills to replace internal reviews of police misconduct, including the use of excessive force, with outside, independent investigation. Concerningly, the Attorney General’s Office, who is charged with investigating an officer’s use of deadly force, has never found an officer at fault in a police-involved shooting.
“MACDL members represent people who are incarcerated or convicted in Maine’s jails and prisons. Unfortunately, excessive force against people of color and the use of racial slurs is too common in Maine’s jails and prisons. Training and accountability are needed here, as well.
“Many of the officer-involved deaths that have gripped our country happened because the police have the authority to make pretextual stops. Although the United States upheld this practice as constitutional nearly twenty-five years ago, in Whren v. United States, the State has the power to stop this antiquated incendiary practice. Statistics prove that police target minorities over white citizens for these types of stops at an alarmingly high rate. This type of harassment is unacceptable. Police departments, prosecutors and Maine courts must no longer tolerate and allow it.
“A functioning criminal justice system requires the fair and humane treatment of everyone at every stage of the process: on the street during an arrest, in the courthouse, and in jails and prisons. MACDL members are zealous advocates who work every day to hold police officers, prosecutors, and judges accountable for their actions, and we will continue to do so. Our work is as important now as ever, but it is time for our law enforcement agencies and our State leaders to join us in our efforts to end the excessive use of force, racial insensitivity and police misconduct here in Maine. The excessive force, violence, and unequal treatment must end.”