Five hours of presentation, testimony and debate over dozens of amendments for Anne Arundel County’s new police accountability board kept the council working so late that they ran out of time to vote on the final measure on Monday.
Early on, the Maryland county’s police chief, Amal Awad, pleaded for a fair process.
“It’s essential for public safety, our community’s safety, that we get this right,” Awad said. “The state dealt all the jurisdictions a hand. We have to play that hand that we’ve been dealt.”
The new board was mandated under a series of new state laws passed last year with a focus on police reforms following the death of George Floyd in Minnesota. These new laws concerning police accountability boards take effect July 1, 2022, and it’s up to individual counties to determine how to carry out the new oversight aspects of those laws.
“This is the beginning of a new way of addressing police accountability,” said Pete Baron, the director of government relations for County Executive Steuart Pittman. “The state changed the rules and we have to implement it.”
The proposal that went before the Anne Arundel County Council would create a board with nine voting members appointed by the county executive. They would be made up of non-police officers serving three-year terms. A separate group of five nonvoting members would then represent the various police agencies operating within the county.
Public testimony featured comments from several county residents with a wide range of views on policing and the reforms that are needed. Then the council spent hours going over dozens of amendments to the proposal.
The council debated everything from whether board members should have lived in the county for a minimum of two years instead of the three that was proposed, to how the leaders of the accountability board would be chosen.
In all, 34 different amendments got voted on. There would have been more, but when the clock hit midnight, the council had to stop taking votes. By rule, no legislation or amendments can be voted on once the clock hits midnight. Instead, the council will finish enacting the new accountability board when it meets again on March 21.