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Baltimore County citizen police accountability board to be debated Tuesday

John Lee
Baltimore County Police Chief Melissa Hyatt. Credit: John Lee

Baltimore County is figuring out how it is going to set up a state-mandated citizen police accountability board. The County Council will hear from residents Tuesday about what that board should look like.

Some have already raised concerns that the board will be toothless and powerless.

“As opposed to just being a gesture, and a gesture that won’t really help to address some of the systemic issues that the PAB (police accountability board) is supposed to address,” Andy Saleem Higgins recently said at a community meeting on the issue.

Maryland localities have to set up accountability boards under legislation passed by the General Assembly during its 2021 session.

Baltimore County’s nine-member board would receive public complaints about police misconduct, hold regular meetings with law enforcement and recommend policy changes.

The legislation forbids police officers from serving on the board. Claire Landers told county officials that should be the case for former officers and relatives as well.

“The interests and experiences of officers under investigation are already protected by their powerful union, that fellow officers of similar rank are required to serve on their trial boards, ensures that their policing perspective and background is understood and represented,” Landers said.

County Executive Johnny Olszewski said the board will improve law enforcement and public safety.

“We all want to make our police department even better and our community safer,” Olszewski said. “We know our communities are safest when communities and law enforcement officers trust each other and work together.”

The county executive will appoint the board’s members, one from each of the seven council districts, and two at-large.

Tuesday’s public hearing on the accountability board will be during the county council’s virtual work session, which begins at 4 p.m. Residents have to sign up online in advance to speak.

The council is expected to vote on how to set up the board Monday, May 2.

John Lee is a reporter for WYPR covering Baltimore County. @JohnWesleyLee2