Police Accountability Board

Update: January 3, 2022 Press Release


January 3, 2022

Howard County Citizens Still Urging Greater Transparency in the Establishment of a Police Accountability Board

January 4 Vote by Howard County Council Threatens to Implement Flawed Bill

That Has Not Addressed Community Concerns about Lack of Transparency and Accountability in Policing in Our County

[Howard County, MD] The Maryland Police Accountability Act of 2021 requires the establishment of a Police Accountability Board in Howard County which is required, amongst other things, to “work with Law Enforcement Agencies and County Government to improve matters of policing.” And yet, the Ball Administration’s Bill no 83-2021 to establish the Police Accountability Board (which is currently scheduled for a County Council vote on Tuesday January 4, 2022) falls far short of the laudable goal of the MPAA and is fatally flawed - in many respects Dr. Ball’s Bill will actually do damage to the cause of police accountability in our county.

County leadership must address the fatal flaws in Dr. Ball’s bill NOW so that Howard County can establish an effective Police Accountability Board and seize the opportunity to be a leader in our state and country in representing the public interest and working towards racial equity and justice in policing in Howard County.

The Police Accountability Task Force of Howard County (PATF-HoCo) urgently calls on each County Council member to:

  • Vote NO to the Ball Administration’s attempt to gag the Police Accountability Board on matters of police misconduct.

The Ball Administration would require each PAB Board member to sign a confidentiality agreement. This is totally unacceptable as it would effectively prevent the PAB from communicating with the public on matters of police misconduct. This is blatantly inconsistent with the PAB’s role of driving greater transparency and accountability into policing in Howard County.

  • Vote YES to providing the Police Accountability Board with the tools it needs to be able to drive increased accountability in policing in Howard County.

The Ball Administration’s Bill is lacking any provisions that would give the PAB access to relevant law enforcement records or police body-worn camera recordings. Without such a right of access, the PAB is essentially powerless to provide any timely review of serious incidents of police misconduct and provide the necessary oversight over officer misconduct and police accountability for the Howard County community.

  • Vote YES to requiring members of the Police Accountability Board to be made up of individuals who represent the public interest.

The Ball Administration’s Bill would authorize the selection of individual Board members who are former career law enforcement or county administration employees. This must be rejected. It is critically important that membership be reflective of the Howard County community it serves, not potentially partisan agencies.

  • Take the time to get the Bill right so that the Police Accountability Board can exercise effective oversight over incidents of officer-involved shootings or other officer use-of-force incidents (so called “Critical Incidents”).

The PAB’s timely access to review police-body worn camera recordings will be particularly important if a Critical Incident occurs within our County. Yet the proposed Bill and amendments are silent on this vital subject. The County Council should table the Bill to allow the introduction of a new amendment providing the PAB with the authority to review body-worn camera recordings expeditiously after any such Critical Incident.

Update: December 18, 2021

PATF-HoCo is pleased to indicate that the Howard County Council voted unanimously in legislative session on December 6 to table consideration of Bill 83-2021, in order to allow sufficient time for consideration by County Leadership of inputs from the community relating to the establishment of the Police Accountability Board.

PATF-HoCo has very carefully considered the proposed Police Accountability Board (PAB) legislation (Bill 83-2021) and 6 amendments submitted by County Executive Calvin Ball, as well as what is required to enable the PAB to faithfully represent the Howard County community in matters of police misconduct and to position it to make substantive improvements in police transparency and accountability. We find the proposed legislation to be seriously flawed, and, consequently, we have developed a set of recommendations and additional amendments to the PAB legislation. Among other changes, our recommendations provide for a public process for selecting members of the board to reflect fully the diversity of our County, with the ability for county residents to submit nominations; and invest the PAB with the power that it needs to fully represent the interests of the community in achieving true police transparency and accountability.

To assist you in reviewing our recommendations, we have provided (see below):

1. A Table of PATF-HoCo Recommendations, which (i) concisely summarizes our recommendations; (ii) also summarizes our recommendations relating to Amendments 1-6 to Bill 83-2021 submitted by the County Executive; and (iii) compares and highlights differences between PATF-HoCo’s recommendations and the original bill/amendments submitted by the County Executive.

2. Attachment A - a set of sample Amendment documents (in legislative format) that would implement PATF-HoCo’s recommendations, including 5 new amendments (Amendments 7-11).

We fully agree with the statement from Dr. Ball, when he submitted Bill 83-2021, that, “This Board is an important tool to engage our residents in matters of policing and adds another layer of accountability.” We believe we have a tremendous opportunity to put in place a best-in-class Police Accountability Board that will drive police accountability, enhance the effectiveness of law enforcement, and improve public safety in our County.

PATF-HoCo Recommendations re Bill 83-2021 final.docx
Attachment A Cover Sheet.docx
attachment A Amendment 7 Final.docx
attachment A Amendment 8 final.docx
attachment A Amendment 1 to Amendment 3 final.docx
attachment A Amendment 9 final.docx
attachment A Amendment 10 final.docx
attachment A Amendment 11 final.docx
attachment A Amendment 1 to Amendment 6 final.docx

Update : December 3, 2021

Howard County Citizens Seek Greater Transparency in the Establishment of a Police Accountability Board

The Police Accountability Task Force of Howard County (PATF-HoCo)

Say Proposed PAB is Flawed... Recommends

Tabling Bill Until Community Concerns Are Addressed

[Howard County, MD]— In the wake of the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent public unrest, the Maryland General Assembly passed the Maryland Police Accountability Act of 2021, which mandates a number of programs and procedures designed to improve law enforcement transparency and accountability in Maryland.

Among its ground-breaking reforms is a requirement that every county establish a Police Accountability Board (PAB) to receive public complaints of police misconduct and make policy recommendations to improve police accountability. On October 21, in keeping with this requirement, Howard County Executive Dr. Calvin Ball proposed a bill that would establish a PAB in Howard County.

Although PATF-HoCo is pleased that Dr. Ball submitted a proposal for the creation of the PAB, we feel that his proposed bill falls short in at least two (2) ways. First, the bill fails to provide for a public process for selecting members of the board to reflect fully the diversity of our County, with the ability for county residents to submit nominations. Second, the bill does not give the PAB the power that it needs to fully represent the interests of the community in achieving true police transparency and accountability.

On November 8, PATF-HoCo sent the County Executive a number of recommendations for improving the bill. The recommendations addressed budget and staff, board structure, member qualifications, selection process, and board duties. We are pleased that Dr. Ball has responded by introducing amendments that incorporate one or two of our recommendations. Nevertheless, there are many key recommendations that have not yet been addressed which would greatly increase the ability of the PAB to enhance police accountability in our County.

“The role of the PAB is so important that we want to ensure that it is not just a token organization, but one that has the capability of driving accountability and improving community policing. We are disappointed that the County Executive has not responded to our many requests to discuss the community’s concern about this bill in good faith. We find it ironic that the newly mandated PAB, which was created to engage our residents in matters of policing and adding another level of accountability, is being rapidly pushed through without responding to the concerns of long-term residents.” said Ted Stewart from PATF-HoCo’s Steering Committee.

On November 15, PATF-HoCo provided testimony outlining our concerns and recommendations at the County Council Legislative Public Hearing. We were subsequently invited to provide additional testimony during the Council’s Work Session on November 17. In both sessions we respectfully recommended that the proposed bill (Bill #83-2021) be withdrawn by the County Executive and resubmitted with amendments that address the concerns of the community.

On Monday, December 6, the County Council will consider whether to table the bill at its Legislative Session to allow more time for discussion and further amendments. We strongly urge the County Council to vote to table the bill and urge the County Executive to return with an amended bill that is better aligned with the intended purpose of the PAB mandate.

About Us

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.