Frederick Aldermen Discuss County’s Police Accountability Board Bill

They raised  concerns about the board’s size, restrictions on membership 

Frederick, Md (KM) – The Frederick Board of Aldermen on Wednesday got a look at a bill proposed by the County Executive to set up a police accountability board.

The bill would establish  a five-member panel which would hold quarterly meetings with heads of law enforcement agencies and work with them to improve policing. It would also appoint civilian members to charging committees and trail boards, and receive complaints about police officer misconduct filed by citizens. The board would also review outcomes of disciplinary matters considered by charging committees, and present  a report by December 31st to the County Council and the County Executive which identifies trends in s disciplinary processes of police officers, and make recommendations.

State law requires each county in Maryland to form police accountability boards.

Alderwoman Donna Kuzemchak said that five members on this board is not  enough. “Five is way too small. And I would say seven is way too small,” she said. “I would go with 11 or 13, something definitely higher.

Alderman Derrick Shackleford said it could dilute Frederick city’s representation on the board. “In a county of 26,000,. five persons and then to say in this legislation about representation. That basically means we have one person represent one,” he said.

The bill’s details, presented by County Attorney Bryon Black, lists the restrictions on who may be a part of the police accountability board. Those individuals must be county residents and registered to vote. They have to  be at least 25-years of age, have a familiarly with human resources, the operations of a government agency, the criminal justice system or community service organizations. The persons on the board must submit to a intense questioning by the County Executive or her designee. There will also be appropriate background research into these individuals to make sure they can make objective decisions and not be subject to outside influence.

No active police officers could serve on the board, but the Sheriff’s Office, and the Frederick, Brunswick and Thurmont Police Departments could each appoint a non-voting member.

Alderman Ben MacShane said it appears these restrictions are being developed by the police agencies this board is supposed  to monitor. “It sounds insane that representatives from the agencies being monitored will be involved in vetting and who sits on the monitoring board,” he said.

Also, Alderman Kelly Russell, a retired Frederick Police Officer and lifetime member of the FOP, had a question about one of the requirements. “Is is a county norm that you be 25-years of age? Because you only have to 21 to be a police officer,” she said.

Even though the County Council will eventually vote on this bill, Black said he brought the legislation to Board of Aldermen to get their input. He will take back their comments to the County Executive.

A town hall meeting on this bill is scheduled for Monday, January 24th beginning at 7:00 PM.

The County must have a police accountability board in place by July 1st.  

Throughout this whole process, Alderman Shackleford asked his colleagues to remember what’s important. “We’re not pitting law enforcement against accountability, or law enforcement against the community, or the community against law enforcement. This is all  of us working together,” he said. “And in order for this to  work, that’s got to be said not only by us as a board, as a County Council but also within our police department. That may not happen at the chief’s level, but I’m glad that our chiefs’ has said that.”

By Kevin McManus