The County Council unanimously passed Bill 1-19, The Police Officer Involved Death – Independent Investigation, also known as the Law Enforcement Trust and Transparency Act.
Today’s 9-0 vote was expected, since all councilmembers cosponsored the bill, introduced in January by Councilmember Will Jawando (D-At Large).
When a police officer is involved in an individual’s death, the act would require a criminal investigation be conducted by an independent law enforcement entity, along with the release of a public report from that entity.
Currently, Montgomery County Police conduct the initial criminal investigation of their own officers, and the findings are not released to the public. The LETT Act is designed to remove potential conflicts of interest in these cases.
“I am pleased by the overwhelming support by all of my colleagues on the Council in recognizing the importance of this measure. 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, and we believe that this transparency will build trust,” he added.
Previously, the county’s State’s Attorney had an informal agreement with Howard County prosecutors to review cases in which an officer was involved in an individual’s death, and to consider whether criminal charges were warranted.
A memorandum of understanding signed by the two offices in April solidified that agreement.
In the most recent case, the Howard County State’s Attorney recommended that no charges be filed in the June 2018 shooting death of Robert White, a 41-year-old Silver Spring resident. The officer involved in that case was Officer Anand Badgujar.
Photo courtesy Councilmember Will Jawando