The recent abhorrent murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other Black people at the hands of police officers have justifiably brought new attention not only to the Black Lives Matter movement, but to the necessity of thinking about law enforcement in this country in new ways. Our Police Chief had already begun eliminating controversial use of force techniques linked to police violence in those and other cases. We need to continue that process, and take further steps to reduce unduly militaristic equipment, training and practices. In addition, it’s crucial to expand community engagement consistent with our racial equity policy to a broader range of residents. This would help identify alternatives to traditional policing, enabling greater emphasis on needs like job training and mental health, with the goal of offering residents in marginalized areas of the City more options beyond policing to address their challenges.
- Police Chief Selection Process -- We took a big step by hiring Chief DeVaul two and half years ago, through a process tied to a Council resolution laying out the qualities we sought in a new Chief, including embrace of the guardian rather than warrior model and a genuine commitment to community policing.
- Use of Force -- I’m urging the Department to complete the process of barring the 8 practices listed in the #CANTWAIT Use of Force Policy Recommendations.
- De-militarization -- I’m recommending we phase out our Emergency Response Team training, the K-9 division, and move away from uniforms, vehicles and other gear that appear unduly militaristic.
- Community Engagement -- I support the establishment of an appropriately diverse task force of residents to develop recommendations for changes in our approach to policing, including consideration of programs and services aimed at investing economically and socially in underserved neighborhoods.
- Mediation -- I’ve encouraged the implementation of the mediation concept that’s under review in the Department to help resolve less serious disputes and disagreements involving officers and residents.
- State Legislation -- I’m pleased we included in our annual list of recommendations for Maryland Municipal League state lobbying in next year’s legislative session a group of key police reforms, including repeal of the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights (which makes responding to police misconduct very difficult), more transparency in internal police investigations, limits on use of force, and an expansion of mental health crisis units. I look forward to advocating for all of these goals with our State colleagues.