County executive looks to launch task force to audit police department

County executive looks to launch task force to audit police department

Some council members say group seems to duplicate role of new commission

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Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich is working on forming a group that will tackle police policies and procedures.

File photo

A group of Montgomery County employees and community members might take a deep dive into auditing the police department’s data, policies and procedures.

County Executive Marc Elrich is creating the Reimagine Public Safety Task Force.

Council members are questioning the purpose of the new task force since several said it seems to duplicate what they’re working on with a new commission.

Elrich told Bethesda Beat on Sunday that the largest part of the task force will be community input with a broad cross-section of people. A consulting firm will lead the group in analyzing data and procedures with the police department. Several firms are being considered.

“We would be bringing in a consulting firm that deals, I would say, in a complete way with these issues,” he said. “Not just looking at police management-type issues, but looking at everything from training to promotion policies to what police get called for.”

A contract with a consulting firm is expected to be complete by the end of July.

The audit will also look at the whole court system, Elrich said, including disproportionate sentencing.

The group, which will include people of different ages, genders and races, will start its work in August. There will also be representatives of the disabled and LGBTQ communities.

Some of the task force’s duties are similar to those of the council’s Policing Advisory Commission. Applications for the commission closed on Friday at 5 p.m.

The commission will have people from the community of different ages, races, socioeconomic status, and other demographics.

Police training, disciplinary procedures, enforcement and responses are listed as topics for the commission to tackle.

Council Vice President Tom Hucker said Monday that he believes 250 people applied to serve on the commission. The council will appoint nine members, and the county executive will appoint four.

Hucker said the council’s choices will most likely be based on a ranking vote. Council members will mostly like rank the candidates they want to pick.

Council Member Craig Rice said Friday that Elrich’s proposed task force would largely be a duplication of the council’s Policing Advisory Commission.

“I’m not a big fan of way too many groups doing the same thing,” he said. “They can expand their ability to do that work instead of creating a whole new commission. That doesn’t make sense to me.

Council Member Hans Riemer also said Friday that the task force seems fine, but appeared in its proposal to not include community participation. A memo sent to the County Council on June 13 states that the task force would include representatives from 14 county departments and offices.

“Why not support the police commission to do that work?” he said.

But Elrich said county employees would not be the only members of the task force. Their role would be to guide community members who are on the task force in doing its work, he said. The two efforts are “very different,” he said

The difference is timing. The task force would work quickly on an audit report, with recommendations for changes in the police department expected, he said.

The task force would discuss institutional racism in public safety and opportunities for reforming systems that serve communities.
It would also discuss potentially diverting resources to other areas of need, expand community policing, and rebalance “spending priorities by investing in communities,” according to a memo sent to the County Council on the plans.
“We’re trying to take a quick but very intense deep dive into the whole area of policing,” Elrich said.

The council’s commission is an ongoing project. With monthly meetings, it won’t have the time to do “this level of review” in a short time, he said. The task force is expected to meet more often, he said.

“[The commission] is limited. It’s a very small group of people and it has a lot of staff on it,” he said. “We want a broader community discussion [for the task force]. It’s not ongoing. The task force will continue to work on one report. … We want to be able to hand that over to the commission to help them in their work.”

Part of the task force’s work will be to look at the actual spending in the police department.

“We’ve asked the department to start breaking down where this money goes. … I think we need the answers to these questions as quickly as humanly possible,” he said.

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

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