On Thursday the Maine Legislature’s Judiciary Committee held a follow-up work session on House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross’ (D-Portland) bill, LD 1613, which aims to strengthen Maine’s laws against racial profiling in policing.
In a June 7 work session before the Judiciary on LD 1613, Speaker Talbot Ross misrepresented the position of the Maine State Police (MSP), according to an email from an MSP Lieutenant Colonel to committee staff obtained by the Maine Wire.
Talbot Ross claimed that the MSP supported an amended version of the bill that included a definition of “profiling” provided by the ACLU of Maine, but that wasn’t true.
Lt. Col. Brian Scott of the MSP was listening remotely to the June 7 work session, and emailed the Committee Clerk Susan Pinette to clarify that the MSP did not yet have an official position on the amendment.
The new language was controversial because it would have allowed almost anyone to sue a police officer civilly following a law enforcement interaction if there was the slightest potential that race played a factor.
All 16 Maine Sheriffs of the Maine Sheriffs Association sent a letter to the Judiciary Committee the day after the work session in opposition to Talbot Ross’ amendment.
The letter, authored by Somerset County Sheriff Dale Lancaster, said that the new definition was ambiguous, and that the bill as written would hinder officers’ enforcement actions and open them up to civil action being brought against them.
Neither the Maine State Police nor the House Speaker responded to multiple requests for comment over the last week in relation to the June 7 work session.
Maine’s left-wing news media either haven’t noticed the story or haven’t deemed it worthy of coverage, as the Maine Wire is the only outlet that has noted MSP’s allegation that the Number Two lawmaker in Augusta misrepresented their position.
House Speaker Talbot Ross and Law Enforcement Agencies Reach a Compromise
LD 1613 was tabled by the Judiciary on June 7 until the work session Thursday, June 15, the last day that the Committee was authorized to work on the bill.
During Thursday’s work session, a revised amendment was presented to the Judiciary which took out the provisions of the bill which would open law enforcement officers up to being sued under the Maine Civil Rights Act.
Instead, officers who violate the prohibition on profiling will be subject to disciplinary action taken by the Maine Criminal Justice Academy Board of Trustees, including suspension of up to three years, revocation of certification, denial of application for certification and monetary fines.
The definition of profiling, which was provided by the ACLU of Maine and taken from California state law, was slightly revised in the new amendment to be agreeable to Maine’s law enforcement agencies. The amended definition is narrower than the ACLU-backed language.
Speaker Talbot Ross could not be present at the work session due to a House vote, but a spokesperson from the Speaker’s Office, Thomas Harnett, said that they had reached an agreement with the MSP and Attorney General’s Office (AGO) on the revised amendment.
“We were working to find language we could all agree upon until about 11 o’clock this morning, and this is it,” Harnett said.
“All parties are comfortable with this language, there was give and take on both sides, and we would ask the committee to move the amendment forward,” he said.
Chief Deputy AG Chris Taub said that the AG’s Office was in full agreement to the amendment.
Lt. Col. Scott of the MSP said that he had spoken with the state’s sheriffs and chiefs and that they were comfortable with the amendment’s “profiling” definition and the removal of the option to sue officers under the Maine Civil Rights Act.
“We have worked with the Speaker’s Office, the sponsor of the bill, there’s been a lot of give and take on this, a lot of communication over the last couple weeks,” Scott said, “and we did come up with an agreement.”
“We’re comfortable with the profiling definition that you see here, coupled with the remedy that’s also included in this amendment,” he said.
Rep. Jennifer Poirier (R-Skowhegan) asked Scott if he believed LD 1613 is a necessary law.
“I think the outcome, I think is a reasonable compromise,” Scott said. “The necessity for the bill, that was something that we didn’t originally take a position on.”
The MSP spokesperson said the State Police were already following the “model policy” with the respect to the other provisions of LD 1613 that require the placement of a Civil Rights Officer in every troop, and the collection of profiling data during traffic stops.
“We’re at the point now that we’re comfortable that the amendment here has resolved the concerns that we had,” the spokesperson said.
Scott said that while some individual chiefs and sheriffs might not agree with Talbot Ross’ anti-profiling bill, the MSP, the Department of Public Safety, and the Maine Chiefs and Sheriffs associations as whole organizations find the revised amendment to be a “reasonable compromise.”
A motion “ought to pass” on LD 1613 carried, and the Speaker’s bill will be sent to the House for a vote.
Below is a copy of the latest revision to the amendment to LD 1613 obtained by the Maine Wire: