Wide variety of police reforms recommended in Prince George’s Co.

A group tasked with studying police reform in Maryland’s Prince George’s County released its final report detailing recommendations that range from from use of force and training to retention and funding.

The 100-page report contains dozens of recommendations, many of which align with demands and suggestions pushed by progressive activist groups in recent months.

A number of actions outlined in the report will need legislative action from county leaders.

The committee started work back in July. Co-chaired by retired Circuit Court Judge Maureen  M. Lamasney and state Delegate Alonzo Washington, members brought a wide range of experience to the table.

There were police officers and others who work in law enforcement, as well as county prosecutors, including Glenn Ivey, who was Prince George’s County State’s Attorney from 2002 to 2011. Community activists and the county’s top public defender also participated.

“We have held several presentations and discussions on training, hiring practices, employee retention, citizen complaints, the police department’s budget, mental health, police use of force policies and many more,” Washington said.

“As someone who grew up in this county, the county that I love and care so much about, I’ve seen firsthand the need for drastic police reform,” Washington said.

The first recommendations the report delve into focus on mental health training and how police are integrated into the public school system. Some recommendations are cosmetic, like requiring school resource officers to wear “soft” uniforms or even plain clothes, but to also be equipped with body worn cameras.

The recommendations include asking for a change in the name of SROs to “School Safety Monitors.” The report requests the county to come up with a plan that would eventually phase out the program once certain safety metrics are met.

“The heavy lifting begins now, the test begins now, the challenge begins now in whether we can get this work done,” said Ivey, who added that he’s already received blowback from members of the county’s police department for his involvement in the panel.

“I understand this is new terrain and a lot of people are questioning what police do, but I think frankly the time is long overdue for that,” Ivey said.

“The time has come for us to take a look not only at the police but all of us who have played a role in the criminal justice process and to reevaluate what we’re doing and make sure we’re trying to move it in the right direction,” he said.

Ivey said anything that’s acted upon has to be backed up by data that’s made publicly available.

The sharing of other data is touched on in the report as well, which says information about use of force, traffic stops and information about legal settlements should be more readily available.

Additionally, the report recommends making body worn camera footage more available to public information act requests.

Some of the recommendations that may garner the most resistance from police officers include a call for state lawmakers to repeal the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights next year. But the next recommendation says if that isn’t possible, then the bill should be modified to include an increased time to file a police brutality complaint, and speed up the investigative process for officers accused of wrong doing.

“This movement and moment has been birthed on the graves of people,” said Krystal Oriadha, a community activist with the group PG Change Makers, who was on the panel. “We didn’t just come to this moment organically. We came to this moment because people are dying. People are hurting. People are crying and begging for change.”

She called the recommendations a step in the right direction, but admitted she would have liked for them to go further.

Other recommendations that would directly impact how officers do their jobs include putting an end to pulling drivers over for “regulatory infractions,” such as a burned out taillight or any other reason that doesn’t involve the lawful operation of a vehicle.

The report said the county’s police department should have a preference for executing search warrants in the daytime, and implement and emphasize policies and training that prevent racially-biased policing.

It concludes by asking the department to update its use of force policy.

“I think it was Ruth Bader Ginsburg who said, ‘Any substantial change, it happens step-by-step.’ This was a step, I think it’s a giant step,” Lamasney said. “But there’s more work to be done.”

Recommendations focused on employee retention and recruitment urged reforms to the hiring process, including incentives to attract county residents and offering incentives for police officers to live in the county, such as offering salary increases and tax credits for housing.

See the final meeting below.

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