Safety

Police Accountability Board

Issue: How to structure a new Police Accountability Board as required by the state of Maryland. See Background after Latest Actions below.

Latest Actions:

  • 28 June 2022: In accordance with Maryland House Bill (HB670) passed during the last legislative session, the County Council established and approved the appointment this past summer of nine members to the Police Accountability Board [PAB].  Three of five members have been appointed to the Administrative Charging Committee [ACC]; the remaining two are expected to be appointed in the Fall, 2022. See staff report here. The new law requires the governing body of each county to establish a PAB and an (ACC) to handle each complaint alleging police misconduct by a police officer employed by the County or a municipal police department located in the County filed by a member of the public.
  • 22 March: The Council held its fourth work session on Expedited Bill 49-21 which would establish a Police Accountability Board (PAB) and Administrative Charging Committee (ACC) for the County. The goal of the bill is to help improve police accountability.
  • 24 January: A Public Safety Committee meeting on Bill 49-21, Police Accountability Board is scheduled for Jan. 24. See Council Action on January 18.
  • January 18, 7:30 p.m.: Council will to hold a public hearing on Bill 49-21, Police Accountability Board – Administrative Charging Committee – Established, which would establish a Police Accountability Board (PAB) and Administrative Charging Committee (ACC) for the County. Staff report is here.

Background:

The Maryland General Assembly enacted a series of laws establishing uniform standards for police department operations throughout the state. One of these laws, House Bill (HB) 670, created a new uniform procedure for police accountability and discipline. This new law requires the governing body of each county to establish a PAB and an ACC to handle complaints of police misconduct from a member of the public in the County. HB 670 also gives the County PAB and the County ACC jurisdiction over police misconduct complaints against municipal police departments located in the County.

The goal of Bill 49-21 is to help improve police accountability. The lead sponsor is the Council President, at the request of the County Executive.  

Updated 03/23/22

Police Practices

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.

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.

Latest Updates:

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:

  1. Repeal of the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights 
  2. Setting new rules for when police may use force
  3. Raising the bar for officers to use force
  4. Giving civilians a role in police discipline for the first time
  5. Restricting no-knock warrants
  6. Mandating body cameras
  7. 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.

More Information:

information added 05/21/2021

Police Staffing

For almost 20 years the Police Department’s staff has been lower than the average for similarly sized jurisdictions – 1.2 officers per 1,000 residents compared to 2.5 officers per capita reported for suburban areas.   Nevertheless, County has continued to have relatively low crime rates. After taking significant budget cuts during the great recession, Police staffing increased slowly over the past 10 years, from 1,159 authorized sworn positions in FY12 to a high of 1,306 in FY21.  A primary attrition driver is that much of the sworn work force has reached retirement eligibility after a large hiring push in the 1990s. Recent developments have amplified attrition rates, including pandemic-related illnesses, deaths, and resignations, as well as societal and political backlash against police.

Latest update: See this staff report to the Council’s Public Safety Committee.

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.

More Information:

information added 12/18/2020

Abandoned and Neglected Homes in Parkwood

Issue: Abandoned/neglected homes negatively impact our neighborhood

Background: Since 2020, the PRA Safety committee (Jill Lipton and Gabrielle Prandoni) has been working with Councilman Friedson’s staff to address this issue.

Latest Updates:

  • One abandoned home on Cedar was sold, and a new home was erected in its place.  Another home on Everett has been officially “condemned” by the County; we are waiting to see what follows.  
  • Other properties that were neglected have been brought up to code after members of the Safety Committee contacted the appropriate government officials

Updated 03/23/2022

Autumn Safety Tips

Parkwood is a safe community.  But there are certain things we can do to keep each other SAFER, as autumn begins and daylight time is reduced.  

  • Remember to lock your car doors and remove any valuable items.  Theft from vehicles is the #1 problem that affects all communities in Montgomery County.
  • Set up a system with your household members to ensure that all doors and windows are locked before you retire for the night.  
  • Leave outside lights ON during the night.  Light is one of the most effective ways of deterring crime.  You can purchase light bulbs that will turn on/off automatically as the outside light decreases or increases.  
  • Store valuable items such as baby strollers, bicycles, scooters in a place that is secure. Do Not leave them in front of your home.  A good rule of thumb is “If they can’t see it they don’t know it’s there.”
  • If you have a repair person working in your home be sure to check that all doors are locked when they complete their work. 
  • People soliciting door to door are required to have a permit to do so.  Ask to see the permit before speaking with them.  If they do not have a permit, call the MCPD non-emergency number 301-279-8000.  
  • If you get up during the night look out your window to see if there is any suspicious activity.  If there is call the MCPD non- emergency number   301-279-8000
  • You can request a free safety audit of your home by the Montgomery County Police Department by calling the non-emergency number 301-279-8000

Updated September 29, 202

SCAMS-New Ones

From the PRA Safety Committee:

Malvertising. There are new ways that bad guys are accessing your info, so please be careful.  Quoting from an article in the Washington Post (September 16, 2022)  “Add one more to the list of online places bad guys are hiding:  the very top of search results. Nasty scams and malware are preying on your trust by hiding behind the ads that sit on top of search pages.  Google, Duck Duck-Go, and Bing are being paid to put them in front of us, and they haven’t figures our how to stop it. Its called “Malvertising” and if you’re not vigilant at spotting it, you could get burned.”

Telephone Scams. Over the last several weeks, some Montgomery County residents have received calls from a person stating that he/she is a Montgomery County Police (MCP) Officer. The scammer has “spoofed” (disguised) his number to make it appear that the call is coming from a Police Station. There are variations of this police impersonator scam but generally the “officer” states that the resident has to make a payment – for a bond, warrant, missed court hearing, or fine. The scammer instructs the resident to send money through a wire transfer, pre-paid cards or internet transaction. It is important to remember that the Montgomery County Police Department will never call residents to collect payment for fines or bonds nor solicit money. If you receive this type of call, hang up and call the Montgomery County Police non-emergency number at 301-279-8000.

Updated September 29, 2022

Speeding

Speeding.  At the request of residents on Saul Road, the PRA Safety Committee contacted Councilmember Evan Glass’ office regarding speeding on Saul Rd between the Cedar Lane entrance to Parkwood and Wildwood.  The Councilmember referred the problem to the County’s Dept. of Transportation, which agreed to undertake an “evaluation [that] will take approximately 45 days (excluding weekends and public holidays)”. The department will report its findings and recommendations by May, “weather and schedule permitted.”

Updated 03/25/2022

Summer Tips-while here or traveling

  • Make sure all valuable items (bikes, strollers etc) are stored out of sight or in a secure place.
  • Make sure sidewalks are clear so members of the community can walk without encountering overgrown shrubs.
  • If the weather is nice do not leave ground level windows open if you are not at home, or at night.
  • Make sure your home and cars are locked before you retire for the night.  If you have an alarm system set it.
  • While away, make sure you cancel mail and the newspapers or have them picked up by a reliable neighbor. 

Update June 2022