From left to right: County Council Member Will Jawando, Montgomery College officials Ginger Robinson and Eric Benjamin and county Police Chief Marcus Jones watch as County Executive Marc Elrich signs legislation into law Friday. Credit: Apps Bichu

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 2:10 p.m. Nov. 5, 2022, to add more information about the legislation.

With Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich’s signature Friday, the Community Informed Police Training Act became law, paving the way to create a new collaboration with education institutions such as Montgomery College to provide training on topics including socially just policing and proactive community engagement.  

“I’m very happy to be here and to see this bill come to a conclusion,” Elrich said during the signing of the legislation passed Oct. 25 by the County Council. “The men and women in our police department deserve the best training that they can get, and we have to put them out on the street knowing as much as we can possibly have them know.”

Council Member Will Jawando, who helped draft the bill and co-sponsored it along with Council Member Hans Riemer, said the passage of the legislation is a signal to the community that “we take seriously the moment we’re in and the need to reimagine what our public safety system looks like.”

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

Under the new law, police academy recruits will be required to take part in a 30-hour program before entering 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,” the press release said.

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“We want you to partner with us on this work that we’re taking seriously by adding additional training and these important topics such as social justice, racial equity, communication de-escalation [and] the history of policing,” Jawando said at the bill signing in Rockville.

He also noted that collaborating with education institutions such as Montgomery College could help the police department with recruitment efforts.

“The second main goal of this legislation in my mind that I think we’ll see over time is that it will be a recruitment tool. We want people in the police department as guardians to understand the needs and diversity of our community,” Jawando said. “You look at Montgomery College … [with] 700 criminal justice students give or take. The vast majority of them are from Montgomery County. The vast majority of those students are students of color — people we want to come and enter and diversify our police workforce so that we can continue to provide guardianship to everyone in our community.” 

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Elrich said the bill had “great synergy” with other initiatives involving police training methods in the county.

“I want to point out that we started down this path before George Floyd. We came into this recognizing that it was time to make some improvements in how we were enforcing the law,” he said. “And … we’re also hiring a civilian expert in equitable law enforcement best practices to help guide the development of programs at Montgomery College and the development of programs inside the police department.”

County Police Chief Marcus Jones thanked Elrich for his support and Jawando for drafting the bill.

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“I’ve never been in an environment where people, no matter their age, never want to stop learning, and so therefore, in this regard, as we begin with our new officers who sometimes come from outside of our county, and some of those who are within our county, [they] will also learn a greater sense of history and how to address many of the individuals that they will interact with during the course of their careers,” Jones said.

Eric Benjamin, interim vice president and provost of the Rockville campus of Montgomery College, said the community college’s partnership with the county police department on the legislation was emblematic of its mission.

“I stress this is a partnership in this time of so much acrimony and vitriol, especially around how communities of color are treated by law enforcement. The collaboration with our colleagues in the Montgomery County Police Department has been open, thoughtful and mutually supportive,” Benjamin said.

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