BALTIMORE COUNTY — At Monday’s virtual Baltimore County Council meeting, leaders voted to postpone a vote that would move the Police Accountability Board forward.
“This will give the public a chance to see the changes that have been proposed,” Baltimore County Chairman Julian Jones said.
The Board, when formed, would give communities a say in the oversight of police.
The first step is creating a “Police Accountability Board” made up of residents from around the county.
During Monday’s virtual meeting Drew, Vetter, Deputy County Administrative Officer, summarized the current bill.
“The board will consist of nine members,” said Vetter. “The board shall reflect the racial, gender and cultural diversity of the county. Members are appointed to three-year terms. The bill requires the county executive to propose a budget for assigned staff as needed.”
Under state law, the county police accountability board will receive complaints of officer misconduct, review disciplinary outcomes, issue suggestions for policy improvements and appoint civilian members to administrative charging committees.
Those committees will review and recommend discipline for internal investigations stemming from complaints that involve a member of the public.
But how strong will the board be?
Baltimore County’s Police Accountability Board has received scrutiny from various groups.
“We don’t want this to be a smoke screen,” said Lorena Diaz, regional community organizer with the ACLU of Maryland. “We want this to be aboard that has teeth, to have some real power.”
Diaz, along with other concerned community members, have sent the Baltimore County Council a six-page memo outlining potential bill amendments.
“One of our requests is to have independent council,” said Diaz. “We don’t want county attorneys. You cannot have a legal counsel that represents both the entire county offices and the police and also represent a board that’s supposed to be independent. It’s a conflict of interest.”
At Monday’s virtual meeting, Jones alluded that the bill has been amended, hence the reason for postponing the vote.
Diaz expects the amendments to be made public sometime this week.
In a statement to WMAR 2 News County Executive John “Johnny O” Olszewski said:
“The creation of a Police Accountability Board is an important step in the implementation of reforms intended to make our policing more effective, accountable and community based. We remain committed to the passage of this legislation and to appointing a diverse group of qualified candidates to serve on this critically important board. “
The next county hearing for the PAB is scheduled for May 17 with a vote scheduled for May 26.