2021 Local Criminal Justice Legislation in Washington DC and Maryland
Updated: Sep 3, 2021
As September approaches and legislative bodies across the Washington Metropolitan Area prepare to return from recess, CLPA is highlighting criminal justice reform bills that have either already passed or are still in committee being debated. Many of these bills are a response to the #BlackLivesMatter movement and ongoing call for police reform nationwide. As these bills progress, we will continue to provide updates on these bills and other criminal justice bills as they go through the legislative process.
Bill 7-21, Police – School Resource Officer – Building Positive Law Enforcement Relationships Within Schools
Status: In Committee
The bill text of Bill 7-21 references several federal policies as background for its introduction that would be good to keep in mind while watching it progress through the legislative process. A few of the policies include President Obama’s Plan to Reduce Gun Violence, which identifies the need for both law enforcement and mental health professionals. Obama’s plan advises putting school resource officers and mental health professionals in schools to prevent school crime and student-on-student violence. President Obama’s Task Force Report on 21st Century Policing is also referenced, which recommends creating programs and projects for positive, consistent, and persistent interaction between youth and police. It was noted that the Department of Justice similarly advises that “strong relationships of mutual trust between police agencies and the communities they serve are critical to maintaining public safety and effective policing.”
Currently, there are 23 police officers in Montgomery County assigned to work in various schools as resource officers. Bill 7-21, if enacted would continue these assignments but with enhanced training. Specifically, the bill would:
Authorize the Chief of Police to assign a law enforcement officer to work as a school resource officer in a County school upon the request of the Superintendent of Schools.
Require enhanced training for a school resource officer
Require the County to enter into a memorandum of understanding with the Montgomery County Public Schools governing the assignment of a school resource officer.
Status: In Committee
If enacted, Bill 17-21 would require the Montgomery County Police Department to collaborate with” local educational partners” regarding police cadet recruitment, police training, and provide continuing education for police officers. Regarding recruitment, the bill would also require the Department to collaborate and partner with local educational institutions to expand the recruitment of police cadets who reflect the diversity of the County.
This legislation is a byproduct of a collaboration between Councilmember At-Large Will Jawando, and the Administration at Montgomery College. Noting the fractured relationship between racial and ethnic minority communities and the police, and the recent unrest stemming from the deaths of both George Floyd and Breonna Taylor this bill attempts to address the need for long-overdue police reform in the County. As a result, Montgomery College developed an enhanced recruitment and training curriculum for potential and current police officers.
The curriculum would provide its participants the opportunities to address real-life scenarios they will deal with as police officers, many of the scenarios will revolve around race and ethnicity and how to deal with those situations.
According to an accompanying report from Montgomery College: “The Program would help its participants develop the competency to apply race equity perspectives, deep analysis, and community policing methods through interacting with experts including police officers, community members who routinely experience policing, and experts in race-equity and historical perspectives.“ The program would be a total of five weeks with each week focusing on different concepts and would have 20 to 25 officers per class. Ideally, participants would be in class a total of six hours per week in either six-hour or three-hour formats.
Program breakdown by week:
Week 1: Overview of course, group formation, selection of group projects
Week 2 Imagining and reimagining public safety
Week 3: Race, gender, and ethnicity in Montgomery County
Week 4: Unconscious bias
Week 5: Survey of community policing models, capstone event with student group presentations
Prince George’s County
CB-019-2021 establishes an incentive program to encourage employers in the County to hire residents who are returning from incarceration. America’s mass incarceration and recidivism issues are well documented. It is often reported fact that not only does the U.S. have 5% of the world's population but 20% of its prisoners but less known is that once released, due to lack of services for returning citizens, many return to prison. A recent study by the Department of Justice found that around 6 in 10 (62%) prisoners released across 34 states in 2012 were arrested within 3 years, and 7 in 10 (71%) were arrested within 5 years. Although Maryland reports a steady decline in its prison population, the rate of recidivism is about 40.5 percent, with many repeating the cycle of imprisonment within three years. Studies have shown that poverty was a primary reason for the formerly incarcerated to recidivate back to prison.
Under the program, for positions that qualify, the County would reimburse an employer five dollars per hour for each hour worked by an employee up to a maximum of forty hours per week and one thousand hours per 12-month period. Unless County Executive Angela Alsobrooks decides otherwise, the Program will be administered by Employ Prince George’s. During a hearing for this bill, responding to a question about how the program will actually function it was noted that an employer will hire a returning citizen and then apply for reimbursement. This was seen as an improvement over tax credit programs due to the delay in refunding employers and would enable payments to occur. Each employee would be required to complete a 90- day probationary period and then the payments may be received.
Status: In Committee
B24-0094 requires that the DC Attorney General conduct a study to determine whether the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) engaged in biased policing when they conducted threat assessments of assemblies within the District of Columbia. The bill would also grant the Attorney General subpoena power, as needed, to carry out the study. The study would look back at the time period between January 2017-January 2021 and would provide a detailed analysis of MPD’s response to each assembly. The analysis would include information including, but not limited to:
Number of arrests made.
Number of civilian and officer injuries.
Type of injuries.
Number of fatalities.
Number of officers deployed.
What type of weaponry and crowd control tactics were used.
Whether riot gear was used.
Whether any of the individuals involved in the assembly were on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s terrorist watchlist.
If there is a finding that biased policing has occurred, determine whether MPD’s response varied based on the race, color, religion, sex, national origin, or gender of those engaged in the assembly.
If biased policing has occurred, based on the results of the study, recommendations are to be provided to the Council on how to prevent MPD bias in conducting threat assessments going forward. If biased policing has not been found to have occurred, recommendations are to be provided on how to ensure there is not a disparity in MPD’s response to all assemblies acrossa all groups, of proportionate size and characteristics. However, it there is an inconclusive result, recommendations need to be provided to thr Council on what additional steps must be taken to reach a conclusion. If B24-0094 were enacted, the DC Attorney General would be required to submit a report on the study to the Council no later than six months from its effective date.