Police/Fire, Politics

Olszewski, Hyatt announce new Baltimore County Police Department reform initiatives

TOWSON, MD—Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski and Baltimore County Police Department Chief Melissa Hyatt on Friday announced a series of steps to improve accountability in the police department and promote more equitable policing.

The steps are aimed at addressing systemic challenges and improving relationships between communities and the department.

“The protests we’ve seen in Baltimore County and around the country are shining a bright light on what we already knew—that we have a long way to go to achieve equal justice for African-American communities and that local leaders have a responsibility to take action,” Olszewski said. “We are listening to those in our community who have been marginalized, and we are recommitting to making real change.”

Taken together, the steps announced on Friday aim to improve transparency and accountability in the Baltimore County Police Department, create a more diverse police force, and improve relations between law enforcement officers and the communities they serve.

The steps announced by County Executive Olszewski and Chief Melissa Hyatt are as follow:

  • Update Use of Force policy. The Department has previously made a number of improvements to its use of force trainings that are in alignment with police best practices. The trainings include de-escalation training, Integrating Communications, Assessment and Tactics (ICAT), and implicit bias training. Additionally, Chief Hyatt has incorporated into the Department’s Use of Force policy the concept of Sanctity of Life, the Duty to Intervene and Report excessive or unnecessary use of force, and the importance of Constitutional Policing. The County will now sign the Obama Foundation Pledge to review and update its use of force policy with community input.
  • Implement Fair and Impartial Police Training Curriculum for all BCoPD members. The Department will bring in a nationally-recognized police training program on Fair and Impartial Policing to be provided to all BCoPD commanders, officers and employees in the coming year.
  • Increased transparency of complaint, use of force and traffic stop data. In accordance with Olszewski’s commitment to a more transparent, accountable government, the County will build public dashboards displaying data on the number and disposition of complaints against police officers, instances of uses of force and traffic stop data broken down by race.
  • Support state legislation to amend the Maryland Public Information Act to increase transparency related to discipline cases. County leaders will support legislation in Annapolis to amend the MPIA to increase transparency related to the disposition of police disciplinary actions.
  • Conduct independent analysis and review of BCoPD hiring and recruitment practices. The County will hire an independent third-party organization to conduct a comprehensive review of our hiring and recruitment practices, including a review of data for discriminatory impacts or practices in our testing and background investigations.
  • Expand scope and duration of Equitable Policing Workgroup. Olszewski has issued an Executive Order to expand the scope of the Workgroup on Equitable Policing, originally formed to examine traffic stop data. Going forward, the Workgroup will be a permanent advisory group and will focus more broadly on disparities in policing.

“I’m grateful to the men and women of the Baltimore County Police Department who serve honorably and put their lives on the line every day to serve our communities and I believe that these steps will make the Department even stronger,” Olszewski said.

In November 2019, after reviewing traffic stop data showing 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 practices.

Chaired by the County’s Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, Troy Williams, the group has met six times, including two community listening sessions, and will issue a report later this year. Going forward, the group will continue to examine traffic stop data and will also:

  • Review community policing training policies and practices
  • Review oversight systems, seeking community input and identifying best practices
  • Review the internal and external officer complaint and disciplinary process

Williams is the County’s first Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, a position created by Olszewski to help address disparities and promote equity and inclusion countywide.

In addition to the Workgroup on Equitable Policing, Olszewski created a Diversity, Inclusion and Equity Community Advisory Council and Employee Advisory Council, both aimed at advancing equity and inclusion in Baltimore County and changing the culture of County government to focus consistently on equity in decision-making.

“Not a single neighborhood association I have ever visited has asked for fewer police on the street to prevent robberies and other crimes,” said Fifth District Councilman David Marks. “Some emails I am now getting want large cuts. I support improving and modernizing our police force; building an inclusive police force that collaborates with the communities it represents; and working with all stakeholders to reduce the root causes of crime.”

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