Montgomery Co. schools, law enforcement formalize agreement on police role in schools

The public school system in Montgomery County, Maryland, along with prosecutors and law enforcement agencies have formalized an agreement outlining the relationship between schools and police.

School and police officials will brief the Montgomery County Council on the new memorandum of understanding (MOU) during its session Tuesday afternoon.

“We can’t change it at this point, but we can ask lots of questions and see where it evolves from here,” Montgomery County Council President Gabe Albornoz told reporters during a briefing on Monday.

The new MOU was drawn up after a debate over how police operated within the county’s schools in the past. That debate boiled over after footage of police berating and handcuffing a 5-year-old became public in March 2021. The incident took place in January 2020.

In 2021, Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich said police who operated as school resource officers (SROs) would be removed from schools in the coming year.

Because state law requires “adequate law enforcement coverage” at all schools, the county developed its CEO, or Community Enforcement Officer roles. Unlike the school resource officers, the new CEOs would not be stationed inside schools but would be responsible for providing coverage to school buildings.

Concern about rising violence in schools over the past year, including a shooting at Magruder High School in January, led to calls to have police return to school buildings. At that time, Superintendent Monifa McKnight said that police would have a new role at schools and insisted that they would not be involved in student discipline.

According to council documents which include a copy of the MOU, the new arrangement states that CEOs will have a “private, designated office” near the main office of schools, but “will not be permanently stationed there.” Under the new MOU, an officer “may be asked” to participate in school-based events including career days, assemblies and other staff and student events.

The new arrangement also allows CEOs to view available security videos related to “critical incidents” in schools. According to the MOU, “critical incidents” include cases involving death, rape, robbery, hate crimes, possession of a firearm and gang-related offenses.

In February, less than a month after the shooting at Magruder High School, a number of Montgomery County students told the county’s Board of Education that they wanted more access to mental health services, not increased police presence.

“I think the school system and MCPD did their best to incorporate the concerns raised by many,” Albornoz said, adding that the council would be “very interested in data collection and the metrics that are going to be utilized on how decisions are going to be made moving forward.”

The memorandum of understanding was dated April 4 and signed by Montgomery County school Superintendent Monifa McKnight, State’s Attorney John McCarthy, Montgomery County Police Chief Marcus Jones, and the chiefs of police in Rockville, Takoma Park and Gaithersburg. The county’s Chief Administrative Officer Richard Madaleno and Montgomery County Sheriff Darren Popkin also signed the document.

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Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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