2022 | Schools

County Council to review new agreement outlining police role in MCPS

Memorandum of understanding became effective April 19

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Montgomery County Council members will meet Tuesday to discuss for the first time a new agreement between the school district and county police that outlines the role officers will have in public schools.

The meeting comes about a week after the agreement was finalized and put into effect, according to county leaders. 

County Council President Gabe Albornoz said in a news briefing Monday that the agreement between schools and police has been signed and is currently in effect. It lasts through the end of the school year, Albornoz added.

It’s possible the agreement could be changed after that, but Albornoz wouldn’t specify when.

“The school system and the Board of Education and the superintendent will, as they always do, continue to work with all of the partners — in this case, Montgomery County police,” Albornoz said. “And if they have to make adjustments, I’m confident that they will make them.”

MCPS and the police department have been criticized by some community members who don’t believe that the process for changing the memorandum of understanding — which was signed by county police and school officials earlier this month — has been transparent, a claim both agencies have refuted. 

MCPS said in a message to community members April 7 that once the agreement was finalized, it would send another message with more details and hold a press briefing. 

According to the memorandum, which was included in materials for Tuesday’s County Council meeting, the agreement was finalized April 19. Interim Superintendent Monifa McKnight and Stephanie Williams, an attorney with the county public schools, were the last to sign the agreement.

Tuesday’s meeting will be the first time the new agreement will be discussed publicly. 

The new memorandum of understanding outlines the latest version of the county’s “community engagement officer” program, which replaced the use of school resource officers at the start of this academic year. 

The community engagement officer program assigns a police officer to school clusters, with each one assigned to a high school and other area schools. 

Under the new agreement, the police officers will have assigned office space in each school, but not be permanently stationed there. Each school principal would also have a direct line of contact to their community engagement officer. Before, administrators were directed to not contact the officers directly. 

More specifically, principals or school staff can contact the officer or a designee directly, except for when a response is needed for certain incidents.

According to the agreement, police will take the lead in investigating incidents involving:

  • Death
  • Rape or nonconsensual sexual acts/contact
  • Robbery/attempted robbery
  • Hate crime
  • Possession of a firearm or dangerous or deadly weapon (meaning a student knowingly brought or brandished one on school property)
  • Gang-related crimes/incidents

“For those critical incidents in which the law enforcement agency is taking the lead in the investigation, absent exigent circumstances, MCPS will ascertain basic facts, do what is necessary to stabilize the situation and pause its administrative investigation. MCPS will also allow law enforcement to view available video footage,” the agreement states.

The new agreement was supposed to be released to the public weeks ago, but there have been delays. Tuesday will be the first day that County Council members discuss it. They have been divided over whether they fully support the new program.

Earlier this month, Bethesda Beat compiled the answers to some frequently asked questions about police officers’ role in MCPS. 

Caitlynn Peetz and Steve Bohnel can be reached at caitlynn.peetz@bethesdamagazine.com and steve.bohnel@bethesdamagazine.com