County Council Member Will Jawando Credit: File photo

The County Council on Tuesday approved a bill that aims to improve community-informed policing, increase recruitment of new officers and provide ongoing educational training through collaboration with local education partners such as Montgomery College.

The Community Informed Police Training Act requires the county police department “to collaborate with local educational partners regarding police cadet recruitment and police training, as well as provide for the continuing education of police officers on topics such as socially just policing, community service and engagement, and emerging topics in law enforcement, including cybersecurity, human trafficking, and proactive community engagement,” according to a press release from Council Member Will Jawando, who co-sponsored the bill.  

Jawando said during Tuesday’s council meeting that he was proud of the bill, which was introduced 18 months ago and is co-sponsored by Council Member Hans Riemer. Since then, the legislation has been modified in collaboration with the county police department and Montgomery College.

“The core of it is how do we make sure that our officers that are protecting and serving our residents have a really broad interdisciplinary set of training so that they understand the racial equity and social justice imperatives of our community, but also are learning from nonpolice officers in a more academic setting and can practice that work,” Jawando said.

According to the press release from Jawando’s office, the program’s objective is to help tackle racial inequities in community policing and help create a “collaborative and educational environment for new recruits and existing officers.”

According to the bill’s Racial Equity and Social Justice impact statement by the Office of Legislative Oversight, 18% of the county’s population were Black residents in 2019, but Black residents accounted for as many as 56% of the use of force incidents and 29% of the traffic stops. 

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In addition, only about 12% of the county’s police officers identify as Black, according to Jawando’s press release.

The bill aims to overcome the disparities by increasing recruitment and expanding diversity, through communication sessions with prospective cadets and community members and by providing internships for prospective cadets. 

According to the bill, police academy recruits are required to take part in a 30-hour program before entering the field training. The program will encompass the topics of “racial equity and social justice, health and wellness, community policing, policing history, active listening and conflict resolution and civic engagement.”

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The bill was also amended by the Public Safety Committee to include the requirements of the Police Accountability Act, according to the council.

“As a lifelong Montgomery County resident, I’ve experienced firsthand that we are not immune to the systemic racism that leads to disproportionate outcomes in policing,” Jawando said. The bill is “about building the next generation of police officers that serve as community guardians. It’s a recruitment tool to grow our talent and bring in the diverse, culturally proficient, and properly trained officers that our community needs.” 

 

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Apps Bichu reports on growth and justice. She can be reached at apps.bichu@bethesdamagazine.com