Prince George’s County Council would appoint some members of the Police Accountability Board

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A hotly debated police accountability bill is nearing finalization after Prince George’s County Council approved an amendment that would allow lawmakers to select members to serve on a board designed to ensure accountability. greater community policing oversight. At a council meeting on Monday, lawmakers changed the wording of the bill and allowed themselves to select five members of the Police Accountability Board (PAB), while the county executive appoints the other five positions. as well as the Chairman of the Board.

It is among the many changes made on Monday that the council said it was a compromise to reflect the demands of community members. Many said they were frustrated with the bill implementation process and wanted to play a greater role in the formation of the board and the selection of its members.

“I think we’ve just spent probably the last five hours looking at this bill, amending this bill, asking questions about this bill, and I think… it’s going to be trial and error like any bill,” a council member said. Todd M. Turner (D-District 4). “That’s what democracy should be. It was about making compromises.

But some community members and advocates said they were still disappointed with the changes made by the council, saying the amendments approved, particularly on the process for nominating members and the council’s powers, were “watered down”.

“It was a kick in our chest,” said Dawn Dalton, a community activist.

The PAB and the Administrative Billing Committee (ACC) which would review allegations of police misconduct both grew out of the Maryland Police Accountability Act passed by the General Assembly in 2021 in response to calls for police reform after the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis officers. On Monday, more than a dozen activists, parents and families of victims of police brutality spoke out in public comments stressing that the advice should be designed to deter police brutality with the community involved in the disciplinary process.

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During the last months, some community members have expressed concerns about the selection process for PAB members and the strength of his investigation powers. Prince George’s County Executive Angela D. Alsobrooks (D) has selected a list of 11 candidates for the council to consider for confirmation. But community advocates wanted members selected by the county council rather than the county executive.

“In order to change the way we police this state and this county, we need to shift power into the hands of the community,” Yanet Amanuel, director of public policy at the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland. Meet. “The problem for too long has been that power over the police has been centralized between the county executive and the chief of police. And so allowing the county executive to appoint all or most of the council will continue this same practice. .

The council approved changes to the bill by a 10-1 vote, with a final vote on pending legislation.

Councilman Edward Burroughs III (D-District 8) was the only council member to vote against the bill, expressing concern that the council chairman will remain a county executive appointee and urged the board to reconsider.

“There seems to be an attempt to get to a better place in terms of membership, where the county executive doesn’t appoint all the members,” Burroughs said. “But, I still have real concerns about the county executive appointing members to the PAB, particularly the chairman.”

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The board also discussed changes to the powers, frequency of meetings and funding of the CAP. The approved amendments included the requirement that the PAB be made up of members who “reflect the race, ethnicity, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, cultural and geographic diversity of the county and should be required to ‘include members with a range of professional or lived experiences.’ Other changes include increasing commission funding to 1% of the police department’s annual budget starting next year. Last week, the council approved a county budget of $5 billion, including $1.4 million for new councils and $372 million for the police department.

The lawyers had demanded that the council have its own powers to independently investigate complaints of police misconduct and submit its findings to the ACC. But the council on Monday backed an amendment that would allow the council to investigate evidence, interview witnesses, examine body cameras and issue subpoenas as part of its review of the results of the disciplinary cases of the ACC. Council members also decided to push the vote on an amendment regarding the powers of the ACC until it receives comments from the attorney general’s office, which could delay a final vote on the bill. The deadline for establishing the tips is July 1 under the Maryland Police Accountability Act of 2021.

During public comments, Maryland Fraternal Order of Police First Vice President William Milam urged the board to establish a PAB that “both represents the county and is fair to police officers.” He said the board should not be influenced by “special interest groups” when determining the board.

“It is you, along with the county executive, who should rightly have the ability to create the police accountability committee,” Milam said. “Your path and authority to deal with such an important issue should not be watered down or obscured or referred to some other entity.”

Sheila Colson, the mother of a Prince George police officer who was shot and killed by a co-worker, traveled two hours from Philadelphia to attend the council meeting. She said she wanted to be there in person to support community efforts to create a community-centered police accountability process. Colson urged council to “pass this bill” and get residents involved.

“When it comes to the death of my son, we have not received justice when justice was due,” Colson said of Jacai Colson on the board. “No transparency. No accountability.

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