Councilmember Will Jawando (D-At Large) has introduced a bill that would change how investigations are conducted when a county police officer is involved in the death of an individual.
Bill 1-19, Police Officer Involved Death—Independent Investigation, also known as the Law Enforcement Trust and Transparency Act, would require the county to engage at least two experienced investigators from an independent law enforcement entity to handle any investigation of the case.
“Directing an independent review of police actions, when an officer is involved in the death of a resident, will protect both the integrity of the inquiry and the civil rights of our residents, especially those of color,” Jawando said in a press release. “An independent criminal investigation guards against bias, and the perception of bias. This bill serves all involved—our officers, the prosecutors and our residents.”
Currently, county police conduct an investigation of any officer involved in a shooting death. Under an agreement with Howard County, the county then turns the findings over to the Howard County State’s Attorney to determine whether or not prosecution is warranted in the case.
Under the agreement, the Montgomery County State’s Attorney would do the same for a Howard County case.
In a recent case of a county officer involved in a shooting death, Robert White, an unarmed 41-year-old Silver Spring resident, was killed in a parking lot near his home during a confrontation with an officer that occurred in June 2018.
Following a review of the county’s investigation, Howard County State’s Attorney Dario Broccolino determined that no action would be taken against Officer Anand Badgujar, who fired the fatal shots, saying only that the shooting had been determined to be justified.
Under the LETT Act, if the decision were against filing charges, the independent investigators would be required to release a report to the public.
“Transparency and accountability are essential to fair and equitable treatment of investigations into police conduct, especially when someone’s lost their life,” Jawando said.
Jawando is the lead sponsor of the LETT Act. Councilmembers Rice, Riemer, Albornoz and Council President Navarro have signed on as cosponsors.
In addition, Jawando’s office released a document showing support for the bill from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People of Montgomery County, the American Civil Liberties of Montgomery County and Mothers of Black Boys United for Social Change, and noted that Illinois, Utah and Wisconsin have enacted similar laws.
A public hearing on the LETT Act is tentatively scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on March 5.
Screen shot above from pscp.tv of Chief Thomas Manger addressing the press following the shooting of Robert White. Below, Councilmember Jawando introduces the LETT Act.