Montgomery County’s Reimagining Public Safety Task Force met for the first time Monday to introduce goals for the group.
73 members were on the virtual meeting and Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich joined as well. He shared his own experience with police profiling and how his privilege is something not everyone has.
“I had an experience with profiling, but my profiling was long hair. Now I could end profiling by cutting my hair,” Elrich said. “There are people who are profiled today who no matter what they do, will not stop being profiled because they can’t cut their hair. They are who they are. That is something that has always, always concerned me.”
In late June, Elrich announced that he was creating the task force. Members will discuss racism in policing and examine how to fix policies that impact certain groups disproportionately in order to “reimagine” the Montgomery County Police Department (MCPD). Task force members have to make recommendations on what the department can do to create a more equitable county by Jan. 18, 2021. Elrich said he wants to see what the county’s officers are trained to do. He said it’s not that officers are acting badly on their own, rather that is how they were trained to respond.
“Some people [officers] feel that they’re going into a hostile environment where the law enforcement is the line between barbarism and civilization. The thin blue line,” Elrich said. That kind of mentality creates an unhealthy attitude toward your community, he said.
Elrich’s words help recall a controversy he had with Gov. Larry Hogan in fall 2019.
In October 2019, MCPD tweeted a photo of a Thin Blue Line flag made by a young boy as a gift to Germantown District officers. The boy made the flag in honor of National First Responders Day. Police said the flag would be displayed in the Germantown District Station. Soon after, Elrich said that was not going to happen.
“The flag provides a symbol of support to some but it is a symbol of dismissiveness to others. Because it is divisive, the flag will not be posted at the 5th District nor in any public space within the Police Department,” he said in a statement.
Then, Hogan expressed his contempt for the decision.
I’m offended and disgusted that County Executive Marc Elrich has prohibited Montgomery County Police officers from displaying a “thin blue line” American flag that was made for them by a father & his young son in honor of National First Responders Day.https://t.co/d8bDTWLgXl
— Larry Hogan (@LarryHogan) November 3, 2019
“I’m offended and disgusted that County Executive Marc Elrich has prohibited Montgomery County Police officers from displaying a “thin blue line” American flag that was made for them by a father & his young son in honor of National First Responders Day,” he said on Twitter.
The Thin Blue Line flag shows support for police officers however it has also been used by white supremacists and in opposition to the Black Lives Matter movement.
In August the MCPD released its 2019 Use of Force Report, to include statistics surrounding force incidents between officers and citizens. In 2019 there was an increase in use of force incidents against African Americans, Asians/Pacific Islanders and Hispanics (5.4%, 57.1%, and 6.1%) and a decrease in force against Caucasians (19.4%). African American citizens made up about 57% of force incidents in 2019, compared to Caucasians making up about 20.3%.
Many jurisdictions have taken steps to address racism in policing this summer after George Floyd, a black man, was killed by Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin, after Chauvin held his knee on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes. Floyd was accused of using a counterfeit $20 bill at a grocery store, which prompted the call to police. Witness footage of the incident went viral, sparking outrage among protestors who demanded justice for Floyd and other Black Americans who have been victims of racism and police brutality.