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Md. bill would allow some noncitizens to be police officers

WASHINGTON — Maryland state Sen. Cheryl Kagan has introduced “The Freedom to Serve Act,” which would allow some noncitizens to become police officers in Maryland.

Kagan, a Democrat from Montgomery County, told members of the Senate Judiciary Proceedings Committee on Wednesday that the bill would not be a mandate, and that departments that did not want to open their candidate classes to noncitizens would not be required to do so.

If passed, the process would be open to legal, permanent residents who served honorably in the U.S. military. Currently, officer candidates must be U.S. citizens in Maryland.

Montgomery County Police Chief Tom Manger testified in favor of Senate Bill 853, explaining that the number of police officer candidates has dropped in recent years.

“Last year, we had 300 fewer applicants than we did 10 years ago,” he told members of the committee.

Manger called the change a win-win-win.

“Police departments win, because we get a larger applicant pool. Lawful permanent residents win because they will have a chance at another career path. And our community wins because the quality and diversity of our workforce will improve,” he said.

State Sen. Robert Cassilly, a Republican from Harford County, asked if those candidates who were noncitizens could be paid at a lower rate. “I mean those guys would probably take a lot less pay than what your guys are requiring,” he said.

Manger replied that current personnel rules wouldn’t allow that.

Kagan added that the change would only allow those candidates who aren’t yet citizens the ability to apply. “No guarantees they get the job,” she said.

Manger added that the screening process would be the same as for any other police officer candidate.

“If they don’t pass for whatever reason, the applicant won’t be hired,” Manger said.

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