Via press release:

ELLICOTT CITY, MD – Today, Howard County Executive Calvin Ball released the report of the Office of Human Rights (OHR) Review Committee, formed by Executive Order in February. The OHR investigates discrimination claims and rights violations in Howard County. The OHR Review Committee was formed by Executive Ball following a recommendation from his transition team. The report can be found here.

“Addressing hate and protecting the rights of all are duties I take very seriously,” said Ball. “I want to thank everyone in OHR for their diligence, and every member of my Review Committee for helping us improve. We can be a national model for human and civil rights. We still have work to do in order to create a community that is safe for everyone and one where everyone feels safe. My committee’s report serves as a helpful roadmap for how we get there.”

When formed earlier this year, the Review Committee had three primary charges:

  1. Examine County Code provisions that govern the Office of Human Rights.
  2. Look at case sourcing and the investigation process in order to make a recommendation as to whether the current process is the most efficient and yields the most just results.
  3. Make recommendations on how the Office of Human Rights can function as a model Civil Rights agency.

The Review Committee, comprised of community leaders and experts, conducted interviews with OHR staff and members of the Human Rights Commission. It also hosted two public hearings to solicit testimony from members of the public. Broadly speaking, members of the committee found that OHR’s investigation, compliance, and resolution efforts are well-done and effective.

However, the committee found a need to improve through organizational restructuring, a stronger and more supported outreach and educational program, and internal and external training and organizational development initiatives.

The committee detailed a range of specific recommendations in these categories, including, but not limited to:

  • Develop an organizational strategic plan with a robust communications and outreach component.
  • Create a full-time position to support OHR’s community outreach and engagement efforts.
  • Expand proactive and strategic community outreach efforts to engage partners, communities, neighborhoods, and other relationships.
  • Create advisory groups and tailor outreach strategies to distinct communities in the county based on their unique needs and attributes.
  • Develop a stronger presence as a resource to public school students who need support.
  • Develop a training protocol and have regular meetings with partner organizations.

“It was my honor to Chair this committee of dedicated volunteers serving to further develop the model human rights agency,” said Review Committee Chairperson Candace Dodson-Reed. “With thoughtful input from the community as well as consultation from current and previous agency and Commission members, we developed some comprehensive recommendations for the County Executive to consider.”

“I was pleased to read the findings of the Review Committee and their recognition of the fact that the Office of Human Right’s investigatory and compliance efforts are not only effective, but well done,” said Acting Human Rights Administrator Janssen Evelyn. “I wholeheartedly agree with their recommendations pertaining to the type of permanent leader this Office requires, community outreach and engagement needed, as well as the need for organizational restructuring of the Office of Human Rights. I am pleased to note that in my stint as the Acting Human Rights Administrator, we have been able to take strides in furtherance of County Executive Ball’s vision of making this Office a model agency nationwide. An additional full-time position to support OHR’s now expanded outreach and engagement efforts has been approved and has already been advertised.”

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Here is an interesting excerpt of the report:

Over the last several years, members of our community have expressed growing concerns with incidences of bias, discrimination, and hate. Some of the incidences have been widely publicized, while others happen without much notice. In many ways, what we are seeing in Howard County reflects larger concerns that are surfacing throughout our country.

The OHR documented 58 hate-bias incidents in 2018, defined as acts of prejudice, hate or violence directed because of race, religion, ethnic background or sexual orientation. These numbers represent an increase from the previous year.

2018 also saw 61 reports of employment discrimination, 16 reports of housing discrimination, and 1 report of public accommodation discrimination. Cases included at least 32 complaints based on race, 22 based on disability, 16 based on gender, and 9 based on sexual orientation, among others.

Howard County Executive Calvin Ball convened this Task Force to examine the OHR to better understand how it can serve as a model and how it can further the culture of equity and inclusion that our community and its leaders, like Dr. Ball, espouse.

Be sure to give the full report a read here:  https://www.howardcountymd.gov/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=k887QrcV8vM%3d&portalid=0

It was noted above that the number of incidents increased from the previous year…here is a chart from the 2017 annual report that you might find interesting:

Click to view the 2017 report

If you would like more information about the Howard County Office of Human Rights…visit their webpage here:  https://www.howardcountymd.gov/Departments/County-Administration/Human-Rights

Scott E

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