As required by state law, Montgomery County is creating a police accountability board and an administrative charging committee. They would be charged with reviewing police misconduct and recommending possible disciplinary actions.
County council introduced the bill Tuesday. A public hearing will be held Jan. 11.
The Maryland General Assembly enacted laws to establish uniform standards, including one that deals with a uniform procedure for police accountability and discipline. The law requires setting up the two groups to handle complaints of police misconduct from the public and also gives the two groups jurisdiction over police misconduct complaints against municipal police departments in the county.
The police accountability board would have five members, and the chair of that board automatically becomes a member of the charging committee.
Under the proposed bill, a police officer has the right to accept any discipline handed down by the charging committee or request a trial on the matter.
Several members of the council expressed displeasure on the bill, which was created by the county executive’s office. They particularly noted the make up of the administrative charging committee.
“It’s a narrow list,” said Councilmember Will Jawando. He called it police-heavy, adding,” We are going to need to make some changes there.” He also expressed concern that the county attorney would be on the board, calling that “a possible conflict of interest.”
He said the bill should be rewritten following public comment.
Councilmember Sidney Katz agreed, noting, “We re going to have open, transparent discussions.”
By state law, the groups must begin working by July 1, which several councilmembers said was not adequate time to work out the details, choose members and have them properly trained.
“The reality is we need to start the process as soon as we can,” Katz said, adding that he wished County Executive Marc Elrich “had brought it over sooner.”
The Silver Spring Justice Coalition and the ACLU of Maryland have come out strongly against the bill in its current form and called on Elrich to “withdraw his unacceptable bill.”
They were upset the public had no input in the creation of the bill. In a press release, members of the coalition noted, “SSJC wrote to the County Executive and County Council asking for public input into the drafting of enabling legislation for the new boards. Not only was this letter ignored, but instead, with no notice or any community input, the County Executive drafted a bill.”
According to SJCC, “The Executive’s bill undermines the legislative intent and purpose of the new state law and shuts the community out of the new disciplinary process by populating the board with members of the law enforcement community, rather than members of the community that is impacted by law enforcement.”
Joanna Silver, Policy Committee Co-Chair of the Silver Spring Justice Coalition, wrote in a news release, “Because there was no community input, the bill perpetuates law enforcement’s control of police discipline, excluding the communities most impacted by policing. The community needs more than a few minutes at a Council hearing to fix this fatally flawed bill.”
Yanet Amanuel, Interim Public Policy Director at ACLU of Maryland, noted in the press release that the bill “does not call for or fund independent counsel or an independent staff to engage in research, independent analysis, or community participation or outreach. Because the bill is expedited, it may not receive the necessary racial equity and social justice impact assessment, and that is unacceptable.”
The county already has a Policing Advisory Commission, which advises the council on policing matters and provides information regarding best practices. It also recommends policies, programs, legislation or regulations.
The 15-member board currently has a vacancy. Anyone interested in applying by the Dec. 24 deadline should submit a letter of interest with a resume, no more than four pages in length, to Council President Gabe Albornoz at firstname.lastname@example.org or mail to Montgomery County Council, 100 Maryland Avenue, Rockville, Maryland 20850.