DISTRICT HEIGHTS, Md. – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) today met with about 75 local, state and federal law enforcement officers to discuss ways to better safeguard our communities and the officers who protect them.
The wide-ranging conversation centered on strengthening relationships between local residents and law enforcement, countering gang activity in the region and ensuring that police departments continue to receive federal funding that meets their needs. Senator Cardin also outlined several pieces of legislation he that has introduced in the Senate, such as the recently passed Blue Alert bill, that are designed to assist law enforcement nationwide.
“We need to make some important reforms of the criminal justice system. There is something wrong in America when so many of our African-American men are behind bars, and many for non-violent offenses,” said Senator Cardin. “We also want to make sure we have the right data and that we are looking at the right numbers. We don’t want to have police intimidated from doing their job, but we also want to make sure discriminatory profiling is not diverting resources from keeping our communities safe.”
Senator Cardin heard from law enforcement about the numerous challenges they face in combatting several threats, including increasingly organized gangs in the area. Officers stressed the need to maintain and improve intelligence sharing and lines of communication among other departments and federal law enforcement agencies.
As the Ranking Member of the Senator Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Cardin traveled to a number of Central American countries this summer. He shared his insights on foreign gangs with the law enforcement officers.
“Homegrown and imported gangs are an unfortunate problem across Maryland. While in Central America, I spoke with ex-gang members who underscored just how dangerous these groups are. Many of these groups adopt and enforce a join-or-die mentality. In turn, that forces many innocent people to flee their homes for the United States and Mexico,” said Senator Cardin. “State and local law enforcement must be well-trained and better equipped to deal with these unique challenges. The federal government must take the lead in intelligence sharing so we can get these people off the streets.”
“Law enforcement agencies on all levels are being forced to do more with less. Congress needs to make sure that police have the funding they need to get the job done,” Senator Cardin continued. “We also need to look at ways that federal funds can be used to reduce and prevent crimes. Many of the people gathered today stressed the need to invest in alternatives to going down the wrong path, such as afterschool and mentorship programs.”
The discussion also focused on ways in which law enforcement and communities can work together to improve public safety. Earlier this week, Senator Cardin hosted a briefing in Washington, D.C. with Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh to highlight ways in which lawmakers can helped to rebuild frayed relationships between law enforcement and the communities they serve.
“I was proud to introduce the Law Enforcement Trust and Integrity Act, which encourages local police organizations to voluntarily adopt performance-based standards to ensure that incidents of misconduct will be reduced through appropriate management, training and oversight protocols,” said Senator Cardin. “There is no question that our streets are safer when citizens and police act based on mutual respect. Recent incidents across the country have eroded the fundamental trust so necessary to effective policing, and we must rebuild that trust as quickly as we can. The overwhelming majority of law enforcement officers do their incredibly difficult jobs with the utmost honor, and we must use their actions as a guide for how to approach law enforcement nationwide.”