FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – February 11, 2022
Police Accountability Task Force of Howard County
Howard County Council Approves Police Accountability Board Bill
“They Got Some Things Right, But…”
The creation of a Police Accountability Board (PAB) in Howard County (in 2022) was mandated by the Maryland Police Accountability Act (MPAA) of 2021. The MPAA, amongst other things, requires the newly-created PABs to:
On October 21, 2021, in keeping with the MPAA’s requirements, Howard County Executive Dr. Calvin Ball proposed a bill that would establish a PAB in Howard County (CB 83-2021). The bill, as originally proposed by the County Executive, was seriously flawed and it fell short of the laudable goals of the MPAA. On February 7th the Howard County Council passed CB 83-2021, including several pre-filed amendments submitted to correct the serious flaws in the original bill.
These amendments aligned significantly with three (3) key objectives prioritized by PATF-HoCo for achieving a strong PAB empowered to perform its duties and responsibilities, as envisioned by the MPAA:
1) A PAB that is an “independent” body of Howard County residents reflective of the community it serves.
2) The ability of the PAB to freely communicate its observations and findings with the community in regards to community policing.
3) The ability of the PAB to have full access to relevant and timely information from the county’s
law enforcement agencies to drive transparency and accountability.
Overall, the Howard County Council was successful in their efforts to improve many of the bill’s provisions by passing several corrective amendments. We received almost unanimous support from our County Council members regarding our first two objectives and we are thankful for each Council member’s support.
However, our third objective has not yet been fulfilled. The County Council rejected a proposed amendment introduced by Councilmember Walsh which would have given the PAB access to law enforcement agencies’ records and recordings in the immediate aftermath of a so-called “critical incident,” namely an officer-involved shooting or other use of force. The availability of such information to the PAB would enable it to monitor and expose potential corruption or cover-ups related to police use of force in “real-time.” Without this information, the PAB is powerless to expose any irregularities, misrepresentation or other avoidance of accountability in law enforcement investigations into such critical incidents, for example, where information is being mis-characterized or suppressed, or where there is a conflict of interest within law enforcement. However, please note that PATF-HoCo fully respects the leadership and officers of our County’s Law Enforcement Agencies. Our recommendations are completely agnostic to the current incumbents and are designed to promote, improve and assure the existence of effective accountability systems to address potential police misconduct. Councilmembers Jung and Walsh voted to pass this corrective amendment but we were not able to get a third vote to introduce this improvement to the Bill that would have provided for such a vital accountability role for the PAB.
We want to thank Councilmembers Jung, Rigby and Walsh for each sponsoring amendments to correct the original bill. We appreciate their willingness to actively engage with the community, and note that their engagement is especially meaningful regarding a bill that was written specifically to engage the community on matters of community policing.
There is still much to be done as we continue our work to drive police accountability and transparency, and to address racial disparities in policing in our county. We look forward to collaborating with the Howard County Executive and the Howard County Councilmembers on these important issues in our community.
The Police Accountability Task Force of Howard County (PATF-HoCo) is a group of long-term Howard County residents who organized in the summer of 2020 to take action within Howard County to address issues and concerns around racial inequality and disparities in policing. We are also excited to be working with significant community organizations in Howard County who share our concerns.