New Board will establish critical independent oversight, makes misconduct complaints public
Howard County Executive Calvin Ball pre-filed legislation to establish a Police Accountability Board, continuing his efforts to ensure a safe and engaged community. The Board will be responsible for receiving complaints regarding police misconduct and will work with Howard County Police Department and Howard County Sheriff’s Office to improve matters of policing. The legislation proposes a Board made up of five voting members, appointed by the County Executive and confirmed by the Howard County Council.
“Focusing on public safety and reinforcing public trust remains a priority of my administration, and this Police Accountability Board is a critical component to ensure transparency,” said Ball. “This Board is an important tool to engage our residents in matters of policing and adds another layer of accountability.”
According to the proposed legislation, the board members will include two non-voting designees of the Chief of Police and the Sheriff. Appointed members must be a Howard County resident, at least 25 years old, and have some familiarity with criminal justice, government agencies or community service organizations. Residents who are active police officers, county or sheriff employees, or have been convicted of a felony are prohibited from serving on the board.
“Our police department anticipates the creation of an independent accountability board to reassure the community that they are served by an agency of integrity and equity,” said Police Chief Lisa Myers. “We have long-held policies of zero tolerance for misconduct and are committed to operating with transparency. We welcome an independent board to observe first-hand the high standards we hold for every officer and share with us if there are any situations in which they believe we are not living up to those principles. As an organization, we expect no less from every member.”
In addition to its quarterly meetings, the Board will also appoint members to Charging Committees and Trial Boards. The Board will receive complaints of police misconduct filed by members of the public and review outcomes of disciplinary matters considered by the Charging Committee. The Board will also be required to submit an annual report to the County that identifies any trends in disciplinary action against law enforcement personnel and makes policy recommendations that would improve police accountability. Complaints of police misconduct filed with the Board will be forwarded to the appropriate law enforcement agency within three business days after it is received. Per HB-670, the Maryland Police Accountability Act, these activities will begin on or after July 1, 2022.
“Building a strong relationship between law enforcement and the community that we serve is vital,” said Sheriff Marcus Harris. “The Police Accountability Board will help build this relationship by holding our deputies responsible and providing the level of transparency that the community deserves.”
The Police Accountability Board builds on County Executive Ball’s efforts to ensure law enforcement accountability. Earlier this week, Ball signed a budget amendment releasing nearly $500,000 in County funding from contingency in the FY2022 operating budget for Howard County’s body-worn camera program. Ball plans to use $1.6 million in American Rescue Plan (ARP) to provide funding for the body-worn camera program immediately. With funding in place, the body-worn camera program will be fully implemented ahead of the 2023 Maryland General Assembly mandate.