PRINCE FREDERICK, MD – As the open comment period opens about a draft proposal from the Calvert County commissioners that would appoint several former police officers and pro-police representatives to the County’s new police accountability board (PAB), the Calvert County NAACP, League of Women Voters, and PRISM, along with the ACLU of Maryland, are calling for the plan to be more aligned with the spirit and intent of the recently passed Maryland Police Accountability Act of 2021. The groups encourage Calvert County residents who understand the importance of the County’s PAB being led by members of the community who experience overpolicing, particularly Black residents, to participate during the County’s October 12 townhall meeting.
Quote from the Calvert County Branch of the NAACP: “The Calvert NAACP joins the ACLU and other Calvert County organizations in urging citizens to participate in the creation of a Police Accountability Board by coming to the Town hall meeting in person, or if that is not possible, please participate virtually."
This past legislative session, the Maryland General Assembly repealed the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights (LEOBR) and passed the Maryland Police Accountability Act of 2021. The act replaced the LEOBR with a new disciplinary framework that creates new administrative charging committees, police accountability boards and amends the makeup of internal trial boards that consider complaints of misconduct. Passage of that legislation sends a clear message that state policymakers understand the need for more community involvement in the investigation and discipline of police officers accused of misconduct.
While this police reform package is not perfect, the main objective of establishing police accountability boards is to have civilians involved in the oversight of the internal police discipline process. Additionally, these boards are supposed to be entities that communities feel comfortable reporting complaints of police misconduct to, and community members are supposed to be empowered to appoint members accountable to the community on to the charging committees and trial boards.
Quote from the Calvert County League of Women Voters: “The League of Women Voters of Calvert County appreciates the positive contributions of law enforcement to the wellbeing of our community. We also strongly support the creation of a local Police Accountability Board composed of fair-minded civilians to fulfill the crucial function of handling allegations of police misconduct. The success of such an effort will be determined by the acceptance of the community and therefore, the entire process must be transparent, with clear criteria for selecting PAB members in a manner that reflects the diversity of Calvert County, and in the operations of the PAB once established.”
While Black people are only 10% of the County’s population, they make up 31% of residents who are arrested by police. And since Black people make up the vast majority of those targeted by police, they must be well represented on the police accountability board. This especially important because there is already a national problem of people vastly underreporting police misconduct. How can Black resident feel safe making complaints to a police accountability board comprised mainly of former police officers?
According to a previous Bureau of Justice Statistics 2011 Police-Public Contact Survey, regardless of the reason for the stop, less than 5% of persons who believed the police had not behaved properly filed a complaint. Therefore, it is critical that people feel comfortable filing complaints, which underscores the overall need for the police accountability board.
Quote from Calvert County PRISM: “Police accountability boards are essential in ensuring that police are held accountable on a department wide and individual level. Calvert County is the first county to have any drafts for the PAB; however, county officials have taken no substantial actions to alleviate racial tension. It is absolutely vital that this board is composed of individuals who fairly and accurately represent our community in order to ensure that this board offers the equity that Calvert County deserves. Sadly, like the commissioners, many community leaders refuse to accept the diversity that exists in this county. The ‘good ole boy’ system runs deep through Calvert and discourages many from being active politically because they feel their voice doesn’t matter or fear retaliation. The ‘good ole boy system’ is evident in the PAB draft being crafted by a former county commissioner who appointed himself as PAB chairperson. Stand with us as we refuse to settle for political theatre and continue to fight for tangible change in the place that we call home.”
Learn more here from the Maryland Coalition for Justice and Police Accountability about the police reforms passed by the General Assembly in 2021.