Council Passes Bill to Create Policing Advisory Commission

The Montgomery County Council yesterday unanimously adopted Bill 14-19 to create a Policing Advisory Commission.

The commission’s goal is to improve council oversight of the county’s police department. In addition, it’s intended to increase the community’s trust in police by advising the council on certain police matters, including best practices, policies and programs.

The bill, introduced in July by Councilmember Hans Riemer (D-At Large), would create commission made up of 13 members of the public.

Riemer began working on this issue following the death of Robert White, a Silver Spring resident who was said to have mental health issues and died in an officer-involved shooting in 2018.

Riemer wrote in a draft email shared with the Source, “I support our police officers without hesitation. They serve our community under tremendous pressure.

“I also support police reform, because the police profession needs to constantly evolve and improve as our challenges change. And clearly there are issues that need to be addressed,” he continued.

Unlike what some communities have created to perform oversight functions, this commission would not get involved in investigating or prosecuting complaints against officers, or get involved in personnel disputes.

Rather, this group would review policy guidelines and make recommendations as needed.

Examples of policy questions, Riemer wrote, include (italics added):

  • Mental health—how are our officers trained to respond to identify and respond to someone with mental health challenges?
  • Marijuana—how do our officers respond when they identify marijuana, and why?
  • Data—what data does the department collect and share and how can that be improved?
  • Discipline—is the department’s disciplinary process effective and fair?

“Policy issues profoundly impact how communities experience police work. That is why it is necessary to have community input into the policy making process,” Riemer said in a press release. “Bringing all voices to one table will help everyone move forward together. Even where there is disagreement, hopefully there will be more understanding,”

The commission would include nine members appointed by the council and four appointed by the county executive.

Under the terms of the bill, one member must be under age 25 and one between the ages of 26 and 35. The police chief, or a designee, and the president of the Fraternal Order of Police, or a designee, would serve as ex-officio members.

Councilmembers Will Jawando (D-At Large), Tom Hucker (D-District 5) and Evan Glass (D-At Large) were cosponsors of the legislation.

Earlier this year, the council unanimously passed Bill 1-19, The Police Officer Involved Death – Independent Investigation, which Jawando introduced in January.

Screenshot from Montgomery County Police Department web page.