PRINCE GEORGE’S COUNTY -- The Maryland Coalition for Justice & Police Accountability (MCJPA) calls for the County Executive to halt recruitment for Police Accountability Board (PAB) members until a public town hall is first held, giving the community an opportunity to make recommendations, and until legislation has been drafted to enable the board as mandated under Maryland’s new state law – the Maryland Police Accountability Act of 2021 (MPAA). The purpose of the new law was to increase police accountability and community oversight and participation in the police disciplinary process.
The PAB could possibly increase community participation. However, announcing recruitment for this critical role in a community e-newsletter and requesting interested community members to submit a letter of interest and a resume within seven days is not sufficient. Rushing to fill PAB member positions before seeking substantive community input does not facilitate transparency, further erodes trust in leadership and the process, and unfairly prohibits constituents from participating.
We seek a halt to recruitment until the community has had a fair and equitable opportunity to participate in the process and offer the following recommendations. Before recruiting for PAB members for a vaguely announced position, the County should:
- Consider empowering the existing Citizen Complaint Oversight Panel (CCOP) to absorb the functions of a PAB.
- Hold public hearings to educate the community, seek community input, and recruit PAB members.
- Draft legislation to serve as the framework for implementing adherence to the new law, to include providing: 1) a guaranteed minimum budget for the PAB, 2) explicit investigatory powers, 3) independent counsel, 4) allow local community and civil rights organizations to nominate members to the board, 5) a public comment period before members are confirmed and 6) authority to conduct independent investigations and recommend discipline to the charging committee, in addition to PAB membership.
“The only reason you’d make a window this small, is if you just don’t want the PEOPLE to get in.” – Prince George’s County Court Watch
“Prince George's County has a long problematic history within their Police Departments due to lack of oversight and accountability by management, the County Executive, and the County Council. The CCOP has proven useless to stop the brutality and deaths of citizens at the hands of PGPD. To rush a process that could potentially help save lives and not consider public input shows her goal is truly not changing the problems within the agency, holding anyone accountable, or saving lives. She's comfortable knowing another motorist will die, handcuffed in the front seat of a police car on her watch. I'm not." – Nikki Owens, cousin of William Green, who was killed by a PGPD officer.
“A rush to recruit for Police Accountability Board membership is another example of the County’s disturbing trend to preclude the community from fully engaging in business that impacts us all. Your constituents are watching!” – The Talking Drum Incorporated
“Elected official means following the WILL of the people, not your own will!” – Concerned Citizens for Bail Reform
“We cannot accept a rushed process that shuts the community out of the creation of a Police Accountability Board in Prince George’s. The whole point of the Maryland Police Accountability Act, which mandated the creation of Police Accountability Boards, was supposed to be to increase community participation and oversight. So how can County Executive Alsobrooks give the community only one week’s notice to apply as members of the board? And although the Citizen Complaint Oversight Panel has been ineffective in providing critical oversight due to lack of adequate funding, resources and support from the county, how can we not at least have a conversation about whether to improve CCOP and give it the resources and powers it needs to bring accountability?” The answer is, we must do this. – Marion Gray Hopkins, mother of Gary Hopkins Jr who was killed by a PGPD officer, c0-founder of the Coalition of Concerned Mothers, and leader with the Maryland Coalition for Justice and Police Accountability.
The intent of the MPAA, again, is to increase police accountability and community participation in the process. Rushing to fill these positions does not allow for true community participation. We will not accept the exclusion of the community, especially Black and Brown residents who are most impacted by police misconduct, in the implementation of this important legislation.
The Maryland Coalition for Justice & Police Accountability (MCJPA) is a large, diverse, statewide coalition of 90+ organizations united to demand police reforms grounded in community control and accountability.