Bill would require more county police data on ‘stop and frisks,’ searches

Bill would make county police report more data on ‘stop and frisks,’ searches

Measure would also mandate surveys with residents and other data tracking

| Published:
Police-Symbol

Photo from Montgomery County Police

Montgomery County police officers might soon be required to increase the data they collect and report, including details on “stop and frisks,” searches, citations, use of force and arrests.

The data would contain information on race, ethnicity, gender and other demographic information of detainees.

The legislation, which was introduced at the County Council’s meeting on Tuesday, is part of the council’s efforts to provide more transparency into police activity and increase accountability after protests on police brutality swept the nation following George Floyd’s death.

Under the community policing bill, the Montgomery County Police Department would also be required to report data on field interviews, alcohol beverage violations, possession of marijuana violations of less than 10 grams, and incidents of smoking marijuana in public places.

A public hearing and vote on the bill is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on Dec. 8.

According to a July 21 report by the county’s Office of Legislative Oversight, MCPD officers were not collecting data on street stops that don’t result in arrests, citations or summons.

They were also not maintaining a digital database of criminal and civil citations and weren’t consistently reporting information on ethnicity.

The analysis by OLO also found that the police department’s internal affairs police complaints database does not collect race and ethnicity information for every complainant.

Council Member Will Jawando, who spearheaded the legislation, said at the meeting on Tuesday that the OLO report found deep disparities in the interactions between residents and police officers.

“It pointed out that we have some work to do to dig into why we have these disparities on the data that we do collect,” he said. “It also pointed out some gaping holes in things that we don’t collect. You can’t improve and reduce bias in policing or in any system if you don’t track it.”

In addition to increasing transparency into community policing, the changes would also help law enforcement, Council Member Gabe Albornoz said Tuesday.

“Data-driven decision making is better for our first responders and will help as we deal with very difficult budgets moving forward. But related to that, this can’t be an unfunded mandate,” he said of the police department’s capacity for handling the potential increase in data reporting.

Council Member Nancy Navarro agreed that the department might need some additional funding to take on the extra workload.

“There’s no point in adopting legislation and mandates if our folks don’t have the capacity to put this forward,” she said.

The bill might also give residents more confidence in the county’s response to policing, Council Vice President Tom Hucker said.

“We ought to be making policy based on data and not based on anecdotes,” he said. “This will lead the public to have more confidence in our policymaking in this area — which is important in every area, but it’s particularly important in law enforcement and policing matters where there’s life or death and issues of individual freedom.”

Although Black residents account for 18% of the county’s population, they experienced 32% of traffic stops in 2018, 44% of arrests in 2017, and 55% of use of force cases in 2018, according to the OLO report.

In 2019, 27% of Black adults experienced a traffic stop in the county, compared to 14% to 17% of white and Latinx adults and 7% of Asian adults, the report stated.

Black men were also found to be three times as likely as white men to receive any traffic violation at 46% and 17%, respectively.

“While disparities do not prove biased policing, they signal that unconstitutional policing could be a problem that merits investigation,” according to the report.

Briana Adhikusuma can be reached at briana.adhikusuma@bethesdamagazine.com.

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