During a public meeting Tuesday night, several residents in Frederick County, Maryland, demanded minority representation on the county’s new board to investigate and discipline police after misconduct.
The council bill that creates the police accountability board states: “To the extent practicable, the membership of the Board shall reflect the racial, gender, and cultural diversity of the County, as well as representation from communities that experience a higher frequency of interactions with law enforcement.”
But the bill does not require membership by such groups.
“A strong police accountability board should represent Frederick’s diversity and its most vulnerable community members,” said Bill Reid, who is running for one of the county’s House of Delegates seats. “It is to build mutual trust and respect between law enforcement and the public.”
Around 30 Frederick County residents spoke during the county council’s public comment period and most echoed similar concerns. One man suggested that at least one of the nine-member board be an African American and one should be from the Hispanic community.
“If we truly believe that misconduct is a problem in Frederick County, and we truly want to end it, we would acknowledge that the people who will be most devoted to this goal are the people who have survived police misconduct,” resident Corey Traverson said. “We need Black and brown youth on this board.”
The age requirement for the board would be 21.
The composition of the board would also require two members of the board to be from the city of Frederick and one each from Thurmont and Brunswick. Those cities have their own police departments.
“They do have their own police departments. But does that mean that they have their own rules? Every law enforcement officer and employee in the entire county should be held accountable to the same standards,” one commenter said.
Others said it gave a seat to the disproportionately small towns of Thurmont and Brunswick.
Retired police officer Jay Levine stressed the importance of the board: “They’ve been policing themselves for eons now. And they haven’t done it, and so that’s why these boards are being proposed, the legislation being put in place to make these boards happen.”
He did, however, push back on a different aspect of the composition: the prohibition of police on the board.
“Being a police officer doesn’t mean that you’re gonna go out and support the misbehavior of other police officers,” Levine said.
Many other speakers pushed for retired police to be barred as members of the board.
Frederick is one of many counties that is scrambling to pass bills establishing law enforcement review boards. It gives each county until July to form committees, but a recent bill at the state level could move the effective date of the bill from July 1 to Oct. 1.
The county council has until May to amend or pass the bill as is.