Business, Crime, Police/Fire, Politics

Baltimore County Equitable Policing Advisory Group issues interim report for public comment

TOWSON, MD—The Baltimore County Equitable Policing Advisory Group, convened in late 2019 by County Executive Johnny Olszewski, on Tuesday released its draft interim report (PDF), which includes over 35 recommendations to improve equity, accountability, and transparency in policing in Baltimore County.

The public will have the opportunity to provide feedback on the recommendations until Friday, January 8 and may submit comment by email to equitablepolicing@baltimorecountymd.gov. A final report will be issued following completion of the public comment period.

“Every individual in every community in Baltimore County deserves to be treated equitably and with dignity by our law enforcement officers,” Olszewski said. “The Equitable Policing Advisory Group has been charged with and has provided meaningful actions to help ensure our police department meets that standard, and I’m grateful for their work to develop these thoughtful recommendations.”

In November 2019, after a review of traffic stop data showed that African American individuals were issued citations at a higher rate than other individuals, Olszewski created the Workgroup on Equitable Policing to examine policing policies and make recommendations to ensure equitable practices, improve training and supervision, and bring greater transparency and accountability to law enforcement.

The group is chaired by Troy Williams, the County’s first Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, a position created by Olszewski to help promote equity and inclusion countywide. Since its creation, the group has met 17 times, including two community listening sessions.

I’ve been honored to help lead this group in our efforts to identify actionable recommendations that will foster more equitable policing across Baltimore County,” Troy Williams said. “This report represents another significant step forward in the county’s reform efforts and the Equitable Policing Advisory Group will continue to work across the criminal justice continuum.”

In July of 2020, after several high-profile national incidents of deaths of African Americans at the hands of police officers, Olszewski acted proactively, issuing a second executive order to make the group permanent and expand the scope of the group, now known as the Equitable Policing Advisory Group (EPAG), to engage criminal justice stakeholders, review national best practices, and make recommendations with respect to:

  • Bias-free policing; traffic and person stop practices and policies;
  • Use of force policies; training and supervision;
  • Recruitment and hiring; community policing;
  • Citizen oversight systems;
  • Officer complaint and disciplinary processes; and
  • Increased data transparency.

“The dedicated men and women of the Baltimore County Police Department are committed to serving our communities with the utmost professionalism,” Baltimore County Police Chief Melissa Hyatt said. “We welcome the recommendations and are pleased to participate in the work of the Equitable Policing Advisory Group and embrace the opportunity to evolve with our profession.”

Key recommendations from the Equitable Policing Advisory Group’s interim report released today are:

Community Police Relations

  1. Expand the capacity of its behavioral health response function to respond to additional behavioral health-related calls-for-service.
  2. Pursue placing voting members of the public on the Department’s administrative hearing boards through MOU negotiations with FOP Lodge #4 during the FY22 negotiation process.
  3. Commit to the establishment of a permanent Youth Advisory group that will empower young people to share their perspectives with the county’s Criminal Justice partners.
  4. Review policies and procedures regarding traffic stops for defective vehicle equipment.
  5. Expand efforts to directly involve communities in identifying public safety issues.
  6. Make every effort to increase diversity among newly hired officers and cadets.
  7. Provide updates to the EPAG on the progress of the third-party comprehensive review of the hiring process currently underway.

Officer Training:

  1. Provide updates to the EPAG on efforts to implement the SMART Policing Act.
  2. Permanently adopt the Fair and Impartial Policing training that is being provided this year so that this training can be provided on an ongoing basis.
  3. Consider the use of a lecture series of community-based speakers that can educate officers about the historical and cultural context of the communities they serve.
  4. Add a Community Policing training block of instruction at the Academy for recruits.
  5. Create specialized training course(s) for Community Policing and customer service.
  6. Create incentives for officers to engage in Community Policing activities.
  7. Identify strategies to integrate community input into the Police Training Academy.
  8. Create measurement tools for effectiveness of training efforts including analyzing Community Policing performance data.

Officer Complaint Process:

  1. Continue to support reforms to the Maryland Public Information Act (MPIA) to allow citizens to be more fully informed about the disposition of sustained complaints.
  2. Continue to update officer complaint tracking system by converting to the “Blue Team” program, including linking the program to early warning/intervention systems for officers – as required by the SMART Policing Act.
  3. Establish a process to randomly audit a sampling of citizen complaints on an annual basis.
  4. Formalize the relationship between the training division and the officer complaint process.
  5. Examine the process for filing complaints and recommend changes as necessary to ensure that filing a complaint is as easy and accessible as possible for all populations, including non-English speaking population.
  6. Implement a public outreach/education initiative that ensures citizens understand the complaint process.

Data Accountability and Transparency:

  1. Continue to improve comprehensive data collection and sharing of traffic stop, use of force and complaint data through recently released dashboards.
  2. Issue an annual Equity in Policing report.

The Baltimore County Equitable Policing Advisory Group Work Group’s Interim Report is available here (PDF).

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