2022 | Government

After delays, County Council passes legislation to create police accountability boards

Members had been waiting for state lawmakers to act on similar bill

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The County Council unanimously passed a bill Tuesday that creates two boards aimed at increasing accountability in the county’s police department—after delaying for weeks while members waited for state lawmakers to take action on similar legislation.

The bill establishes a nine-member Police Accountability Board and a five-member Administrative Charging Committee, which would provide recommendations to the accountability board about alleged cases of police misconduct. The bill awaits County Executive Marc Elrich’s signature in the coming weeks. 

Broadly speaking, the Police Accountability Board would handle complaints about possible police misconduct. The board would advise the county executive and County Council on policing issues and review complaints of police misconduct filed by the public before sending those to the Administrative Charging Committee for possible further action.

The charging committee is tasked with reviewing cases, which could include examining body camera footage and evidence. The committee also would interview witnesses, which could include any officer involved, and would recommend any administrative charges for officers.

Every three months, the accountability board also would review the outcomes of police “disciplinary matters” considered by the committee.

Christine Wellons, a legislative attorney for the County Council, told the council that legislation approved April 11 by state lawmakers expanded the scope of complaints that could be reviewed by the Police Accountability Board and the Administrative Charging Committee. Internal complaints from within the police department as well as complaints submitted by residents can be reviewed, Wellons said.

Before voting on the bill, council members unanimously approved an amendment to align their legislation with the state law.

At a meeting earlier this month, the council set annual salaries for the accountability board at $10,000 per member, and $16,000 for the charging committee members — except for one member per board. It’s likely that one member would chair both boards, and earn a salary of $22,000.

County officials have started recruiting for both boards and must fill the seats by July 1, per state law. The members must represent the diversity of the county and have experience in police oversight cases; active police officers can’t serve on the Police Accountability Board. 

Council members will review and confirm all prospective members. 

County Council President Gabe Albornoz said the legislative process has taken many twists, but he was glad that the boards have finally been established.

“This ball bounced many times over the course of this process, and I think we landed in the right place,” Albornoz said.

Steve Bohnel can be reached at steve.bohnel@bethesdamagazine.com