Montgomery Co. police audit calls for latest effort to improve community relations, mental health access

More than a year in the making, an audit of the Montgomery County, Maryland, police released Friday has more than 100 pages of recommendations, including more training in de-escalation, dealing with mental health crises and more.

At a news conference Friday, county and police officials discussed the audit from Effective Law Enforcement for All, adding that some of the recommendations had already been implemented.

“There’s a lot in there about training,” County Executive Marc Elrich said about the audit, saying that in any job, “Your actions will often reflect your training.”

When looking into troubling incidents, Elrich said, “We were always told, ‘This is how we train.’ … Well, sometimes what you do is not helpful in tamping down or de-escalating situations.”

The report seeks changes in the training around traffic stops, the language that officers use and more, Elrich said.

The audit also calls for more support and dedicated programs to help people with mental health needs.

“Our officers are basically feeding the largest mental health institution in the county, which is our jail,” Elrich said, noting that more than one-third of prisoners are there with mental health problems. “This is not what jails were meant to be.”

The county will begin reestablishing mental health clinics across the community, he added, but state support would be needed.

David Douglass, with Effective Law Enforcement for All, said they reviewed hundreds of body camera interactions, which raised concerns. “We want to closely supervise those and really ingrain in all officers the concepts of procedural justice and respect,” Douglass said.

Another big focus included data collection and ways to improve how data is analyzed. “Having data systems that are user friendly for the public promotes trust,” Douglass said, while Elrich said having data at everyone’s fingertips makes it easy to see where problems are — or aren’t.

Other recommendations within the audit include higher starting salaries for officers and a focus on diversity, equity and inclusion when recruiting. “The community is really engaged in what they want our police department to look like, the functionality of it,” said Police Chief Marcus Jones.

Some additional changes the department has already made include the creation of a crisis intervention program and better access to mental health wellness services for officers.

No representatives from the police union were at the news conference. Elrich said they couldn’t attend Friday’s session, but that they were scheduled to attend the originally scheduled news conference set for Wednesday.

“I don’t want anyone to think that their not being here is in opposition to this,” he said; Douglass added that the union had been “very supportive.”

Melissa Howell

Melissa Howell joined WTOP Radio in March 2018 and is excited to cover stories that matter across D.C., as well as in Maryland and Virginia. 

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