2021 | Government

County will review some cases in which officers fatally shot people

Police union supports latest effort to examine department practices

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In the latest effort to closely examine police policies and practices, Montgomery County will review specific cases in which officers fatally shot people.

Following the release of officer body camera video in the July 16 fatal shooting of Ryan LeRoux on Tuesday, County Executive Marc Elrich announced that the county would work with the nonprofit Effective Law Enforcement for All to conduct “after-action” reviews of use-of-force incidents in the county, including the LeRoux shooting.

The death of LeRoux after a standoff at a McDonald’s in Gaithersburg will be reviewed by the Howard County State’s Attorney’s Office under a mutual agreement between the two counties. That will be followed by an internal affairs investigation in the Montgomery County Police Department.

A third review will also be done by the police department’s Use of Force and Weapons Review Committee, which looks at every use-of-force incident, acting Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Earl Stoddard told Bethesda Beat on Thursday.

The committee’s review is to determine if there were gaps in policies and whether anything could have been done differently, he said.

Effective Law Enforcement for All (ELE4A) will be brought in as an outside entity, Stoddard said.

“So that they can provide us some external feedback from their experiences across the country to understand whether other jurisdictions have figured out some of these elements in a more effective way than we have,” he said.

“They’ll look at things around: When was the negotiator requested? Should they have been requested sooner?

“There was one officer who deployed his body camera through the drive-through window. That seemed like an excellent use of technology, but obviously it wasn’t done as part of our normal procedure. It was done ad hoc. Should it be done as part of our normal procedure?”

ELE4A will also examine past lethal shootings by police officers in the county as case studies.

Stoddard said he wasn’t sure which specific incidents would be included in the review, but it would likely be limited to recent cases in which body camera footage was available. Montgomery County officers started using body cameras in 2015.

“Obviously, hindsight’s 20/20,” Stoddard said. “What we’re trying to do with these case studies is walk through the incident as it unfolded to assess whether, based on the information that was available at that moment, things could have been done differently. Or if there were opportunities to engage other resources that could have resulted in a different outcome.”

ELE4A has also partnered with the county on another audit as part of Elrich’s Reimagining Public Safety initiative. A draft audit was released at the end of June with a series of recommendations, such as increasing the level of investigation for use-of-force incidents and increasing crisis intervention training. A final report will be issued in the fall.

Separately, Elrich’s Reimagining Public Safety Task Force issued a report in February with 87 recommendations for the department, some of which focused on crisis intervention training.

Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 35, the county’s police union, supports the review of specific use-of-force incidents by ELE4A, the lodge’s corporation vice president, Lee Holland, told Bethesda Beat on Thursday.

“That group has experience in policing,” he said. “A lot of them are senior-level managers that have retired. So, I support the idea of using someone with law enforcement experience to go back and see if there’s something that we could change [with] a policy or make sure policy was followed.”

Holland said he thinks “some good things” came out of ELE4A’s previous audit of the department, and he hopes some of the recommendations will be implemented.

Holland declined to comment specifically on the shooting of LeRoux because he doesn’t know all of the facts, he said.

ELE4A’s review will likely start some time before the fall, Stoddard said on Thursday. He was not sure how long it would last.

Dan Schere can be reached at daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com