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Frederick County to Establish Police Accountability Board for Civilian Complaints

January 7, 2022 by Reece Nations
Frederick County to Establish Police Accountability Board for Civilian Complaints

FREDERICK, Md. — Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner announced legislation on Thursday that would create a police accountability board to oversee the civilian complaint process in cases of misconduct.

The legislation was drafted in compliance with the Police Reform and Accountability Act of 2021 which requires all counties to establish a board that handles civilian complaints of police misconduct by the beginning of July. Board members will be required to take part in training provided by the Maryland Police Training and Standards Commission under the legislation.

The board’s institution in Frederick County is in line with a series of police reform bills passed in April 2021 that included provisions that amend use-of-force guidelines, how search warrants can be executed and repealed the state Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights. Additionally, the newly enacted laws intend to generate more transparent law enforcement standards by creating a new disciplinary process and making some types of misconduct complaints public.

“The bill I am proposing balances the competing interests,” Gardner said in a written statement. “The public deserves an open, transparent process for their complaints, and officers deserve a fair review process.” 

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan responded by vetoing the legislature’s landmark police reform bills although the vetoes would eventually be overridden and passed into law. The police reform bills that Hogan rejected but eventually passed were: 

  • Senate Bill 71, the Maryland Police Accountability Act of 2021, which requires officers that regularly interact with the public to use body-worn cameras that automatically record and save one minute of footage immediately prior to activation by the officer. 
  • Senate Bill 178, known as Anton’s Law, which limits the times at which certain no-knock search warrants can be executed, amends how the warrants may be executed and allows records relating to police conduct to be inspected. 
  • Senate Bill 494, the Juvenile Restoration Act, which allows minors who were tried and sentenced as adults to appeal for a sentence reduction after serving 20 years in prison while also banning life sentences for juveniles. 
  • House Bill 670, the Police Reform and Accountability Act of 2021, which mandates each county to have a police accountability board, repeals the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights and bans officers from refusing to allow citizens to record their actions during an arrest. 

Hogan said he vetoed the bills because, in his view, they were undermined by “political agendas,” diminished police morale and ultimately did not serve the safety interests of the public. In October, Hogan announced a $150 million initiative aimed at “re-funding” police through salary increases, hiring bonuses and reversing budgetary cuts enacted by Congress and the Maryland General Assembly.

“Trying to reduce crime by defunding the police is dangerous, radical, far-left lunacy,” Hogan said during a press conference announcing the initiative. “The reality is that our police are underfunded and under attack. To reverse the tide of rising crime, we need to stop demonizing and sabotaging the dedicated men and women who risk their lives every single day to keep the rest of us safe. We cannot defund the police, we need to re-fund the police.”

The local legislation offered by Gardner is intended to clarify the membership and reporting requirements of the Frederick County police accountability board. Each of Frederick County’s four law enforcement agencies: the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office, the Frederick Police Department, the Brunswick Police Department and the Thurmont Police Department, will be subject to misconduct complaints made by civilians under the accountability board.

Prior to its establishment, the board will be subject to a public information-gathering process in which residents may provide feedback on the legislation and suggest amendments prior to its formal introduction in February. A virtual town hall event will be hosted by Gardner on Jan. 24 to field the general public’s feedback.

“The bill outlines the board’s membership, the frequency of their meetings and their responsibilities,” Gardner said during a public information briefing on Thursday. “It also establishes qualifications for members and lays out the process by which the board will consider complaints and make reports. And again—the bill is a work in progress. There are a few details where we have not yet come to a consensus. Primarily, the number of the people on the board.” 

Reece can be reached at reece@thewellnews.com.

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