As Council Calls to Limit ‘Use of Force,’ Police Union Says its Ideas Have Gone ‘Unheard’

As thousands protest police brutality and racial injustice throughout the country, the calls to reform police unions — which can stand in the way of prosecuting officers who kill unarmed people of color — are getting louder.

Montgomery County Police Department’s union is the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 35 (FOP Lodge 35). In a statement emailed to MyMCMedia, FOP Lodge 35 said “police brutality is unacceptable and [it] supports everyone’s Constitutional right to Free Speech.”

FOP 35 said its officers have been fortunate to be part of peaceful protests, adding, “It is unfortunate that there are racist people in positions of power; it is a systemic problem that touches every aspect of our lives and government, not just within the ranks of the police. It is important to understand change needs to occur in more places than just police departments across the country.”

On June 8, Montgomery County Councilmembers Will Jawando, Craig Rice, Nancy Navarro and Gabe Albornoz released a joint statement announcing that in the coming weeks they will introduce “legislation to further protect the civil rights of county residents, increase police accountability and create safer and more inclusive communities for everyone who calls Montgomery County home.”

“Specifically, our bill would set a higher standard for use of force by police, outlaw certain deadly tactics such as choke-holds, and require police officers to intervene if a fellow officer is committing a crime or violating department policy,” the council’s statement said.

FOP Lodge 35 responded to the council’s proposal saying choke holds have been removed from MCPD’s “use of force for more than 20 years.” The union says it is continuing to improve its use of force policy, but it has other proposals offered to Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich that have gone “unheard.”

“Lodge 35 worked to get the use of force policy to where it is now, and we will certainly work to improve upon it,” the union said.

MyMCMedia reached out to a spokesperson for Elrich, but did not receive a response in time for publication of this story.

On Tuesday, the council will introduce “Use of Force” bill that does not make any mention of choke holds, but calls on the MCPD chief to “issue a directive regarding police use of force.” At a minimum, the council’s bill is asking that the chief’s directive do the following:

  1. “comply with the Constitutions of the United States and the State of Maryland;
  2. “prohibit a member of the police from using deadly force except when necessary to protect against an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury;
  3. “prohibit a member of the police from using a neck restraint or a carotid restraint except when necessary to protect against an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury;
  4. “prohibit a member of the police from striking a restrained individual;
  5. “require a member of the police to take reasonable action to intervene if the member observes another member using excessive force, violating the use of force policy, or committing a crime; and
  6. “protect a member of the police from retaliation or discipline for taking reasonable action under paragraph (5).”

In its statement to MyMCMedia, FOP Lodge 35 says it “wants all officers to [be] held accountable for their actions when they do wrong, but not to the detriment to due process.”

“The job of a police officer is unique and like no other job within the county, thus the rules and regulations surrounding police work must be unique as well,” FOP Lodge 35 said.

FOP Lodge 35 says it has been advocating for the following since Elrich took office:

  • “A return to community-based policing as we had in the 90’s. Community Policing (non-traditional policing) should be engrained in all officers not just a specific division.
  • “Stop stat driven policing for the annual performance rating of officers, train officers to police from the philosophy of a guardian and work to deter crime. At this present moment officers are trained to aggressively look for crime.
  • “Additional training on community policing approaches, de-escalation, and communication under stress. Policing is difficult, and over the past 30 years policing has shifted from protection of people and property to addressing the social issues within the community. Police officers are just not equipped to deal with mental health, poverty, drug abuse, economic deprivation, and all other social inequities. Non-traditional policing provides an officer the ability to attempt to address some of the added responsibilities with collaboration of communities, other government agencies, and creative problem solving. In order to get to the point in which non-traditional policing is reimplemented, there will have to be a change in philosophy from the Chief down. There will have to be a commitment to make available government resources, training, and other funding to accomplish improvement. This County once had this vision and goal.
  • “Internal investigations should be completed in 90 days (DOJ standard).”

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