A hearing on the amended legislation is scheduled for next week.
Frederick, Md. (KM) – Six amendments to a proposed ordinance setting up a police accountability board in Frederick County were considered Tuesday night by the County Council.
One to increase the number of members from nine to 11 was adopted. A second one requires the board’s membership reflect the racial, gender, and cultural diversity of the community. It’s recommended it have representation from the communities which experience a higher frequency of interactions with law enforcement, such as African-Americans, Latino, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, first and second-generation immigrants, person with disabilities, people with behavioral health concerns, and those who have experienced homelessness.
Councilwoman Jessica Fitzwater introduced the amendment. “This is recognizing that all of these communities have a higher interaction with law enforcement,” she said.
Councilman Phil Dacey voted against it. “Generally, diversity is a good thing. But to start listing these different categories and saying we have to appoint somebody from each one of these categories, it adds up to seven out of the 11 seats. I’m saying we’ve lost sight here of what this board is intended to do,” he said.
But Councilman Steve McKay said he supports this amendment. “I think it’s important to recognize more specifically the diversity of our community and the concerns that they brought to us,” he said.
Last week, the Council heard from citizens at a public hearing calling for more minority and immigrant voices on the police accountability board.
Another amendment approved by the Council would set aside one seat each for an African-American and a first or second-generation immigrant. “It guarantees them that they will have a seat on this board when they are the communities that are most impacted by interactions with law enforcement, be they positive or negative,” said Council President MC Keegan-Ayer, who sponsored the amendment.
But Councilman Dacey voted in opposition. “Diversity is much than just those two categories. I can’t support this amendment,:” he said. “To me, it says certain groups are less important.”
“I really think their representation on this board is important,” responded Councilman Jerry Donald. “I really think making sure they’re on this board is key to having a board that the public accepts as a legitimate board.”
The Council is expected to hold a hearing on this amended bill next Tuesday.
State law requires the Frederick County and other counties in the state, and Baltimore City, set up police accountability boards to investigate cases of complaints about misconduct by law enforcement officers. These boards must be established by July 1st, 2022.
By Kevin McManus