Issue: Whether and how police practices should be changed to improve their effectiveness and to ensure equal enforcement and protection.
Background: Nationally reported incidents of harsh use of force and killings by police have led some to call for changes in police practices and procedures. These range from limits on police use of force to changes in responsibility for responding to certain kinds of 911 emergency calls, e.g., creation of a mental health unit to deal with individuals displaying mental health problems Some have gone so far as to call for “defunding the police”, although this often means shifting the responsibility for certain things, e.g., traffic violations to other agencies, such as the Department of Transportation, along with the funds for administering the program.
There is also a question before the Council as to whether the county should continue the School Resource Officer [SRO] program which places police officers in public schools. This issue will be tracked on the Schools page of the Community Issues under the heading School Resource Officers.
Equity in the enforcement of the law has also become an issue. The Montgomery County Office of Legislative Oversight has conducted a study of local policing data and practices and found that available data demonstrates wide disparities in police-public interactions by race and ethnicity in the County, especially for traffic stops and violations, arrests, and use of force. Based these disparities Councilmember Jawando has introduced a bill last November to require that the MCPD keeps a publicly available record of these stops, trespass orders, and other citations, including where they are issued, and to whom, and how often.
Police organizations, including both police departments and police unions are opposed to some of the changes being considered, arguing that if implemented, they could prevent police from carrying out their jobs, or arguing that the problem being solved is not as serious or as frequent as suggested.
The county currently has two advisory groups on policing:
1) The County Executive’s Reimagining Public Safety task force, which has been reviewing police policies and practices since the beginning of the fall 2020. Links to videos of the task force meetings are on its website, as is its full mandate. The task report has submitted its report to the County Executive.
2) The Policing Advisory Commission, which was created in 2019 by the Montgomery County Council in response to the ongoing public dialogue around policing practices and as an effort to increase community involvement in matters of public safety. The Commission’s mission is to advise the Council on policing matters and recommend policies, programs, legislation, or regulations with regards to policing.
In April, at the end of its 2021 session, the Maryland General Assembly overrode vetoes by Governor Hogan and enacted several laws that affect police procedures. These include:
- Repeal of the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights
- Setting new rules for when police may use force
- Raising the bar for officers to use force
- Giving civilians a role in police discipline for the first time
- Restricting no-knock warrants
- Mandating body cameras
- Opening some allegations of police wrongdoing for public review.
The Governor allowed two other police accountability bills to become law without his signature. One puts in place a process to return the Baltimore Police Department to local control for the first time since 1860. The other, which takes effect in October, shifts the investigation of police-involved fatalities from local authorities to an independent unit in the state attorney general’s office. It also bans police departments from acquiring surplus military equipment.
In July 2020, the Montgomery County Council unanimously passed legislation limiting the police department’s use of force, part of an effort to address local and national concerns about law enforcement use of force in the community. At the time, a police union official criticized some of the changes put in place, saying they will make it impossible for officers to do their job. In May 2021 the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 35, a union that represents officers in Montgomery County initiated a law suit against this policy that restricts officers’ ability to use force, saying the policy is not subject to collective bargaining.
- See this Washington Post article for more details about the laws enacted by the General Assembly
- See this Washington Post article for a description of some of the debate in the House of Delegates regarding the racial context of the police reform bills.
information added 05/21/2021
Securing Our Homes and Neighborhood
Issue: How can we improve the security of our homes and neighborhood
Background: Since 2019, the PRA Safety Committee has been using the Parkwood listserve to alert the community to the following:
- Recommendations from Montgomery County Police Department (MCPD) on ways to reduce crime to personal property.
- Information about fire safety.
- Up-to-date information about neighborhood crime statistics bi-monthly.
- Various ongoing telephone, internet or door-to-door scams.
- Worked with Montgomery County Transportation Department (MCDOT) to install improved signage to reduce traffic accidents/violations.
The work of the committee is having an effect; reported incidents were lower in 2020 through mid-December than they were for the same period in 2019. See the link below under More Information. Thefts from automobiles continue to be the most frequently reported crime in the entire County.
information added 12/18/2020