Montgomery Co. Executive Elrich: Police shouldn’t have voting positions on accountability boards

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich said Wednesday the police accountability boards coming to the county should be civilian-led.

While council members continue to work on legislation creating a board to handle complaints of police misconduct, Elrich said he doesn’t believe police should have a voting position on those boards.

“I would prefer civilians,” Elrich said, following concerns from activists that proposed legislation would give law enforcement too much of a say in the new disciplinary process. “I would like to have some ex officio person who knows about policing, but I don’t think they should be voting on the board.”

Maryland lawmakers passed a series of laws last year aiming to improve police accountability and make for a greater public voice in the disciplinary process. Among other measures, the Maryland Police Accountability Act — enacted despite a veto from Gov. Larry Hogan — gives each county until July to form committees for local oversight of law enforcement conduct.

Elrich’s comments, made at a virtual media availability on Wednesday, addressed sharp criticism from the Silver Spring Justice Coalition and the ACLU of Maryland that an initial draft for the bill would populate the boards with members of the law enforcement community, undermining the intent of the reforms.

Elrich said a lack of guidance from the state had also snarled the county’s process of drafting legislation to form the boards, and that lawmakers are still waiting on the state to elaborate on their eligibility requirements, nomination processes and meeting guidelines.

“We’re not the only county that’s struggling with this because we don’t know what they’re going to propose for regulations, or limits on our regulations,” Elrich said. “I believe the purpose of this was to lay out a bare-bones bill that minimally complies with what the state required, and then we would have the public hearings and we would offer amendments.”

Dr. Earl Stoddard, director of Montgomery County’s homeland security office, added that talks are proceeding with only five months before the state’s deadline.

The Montgomery County Council’s public safety committee met for the third time Wednesday afternoon to discuss the bill, which would establish a local Police Accountability Board and Administrative Charging Committee in compliance with the state.

“Without knowing them today, it’s very difficult to draft enacting legislation over at the county council that is consistent with state guidelines that have not been developed yet,” Stoddard said. “We’re really flying in the dark here on how to successfully complete this process along the timeline to be consistent with state law on July 1.”

WTOP’s Kate Ryan contributed to this report.

Alejandro Alvarez

Alejandro Alvarez joined WTOP as a digital journalist and editor in June 2018. He is a reporter and photographer focusing on politics, political activism and international affairs.

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