- The Washington Times - Monday, September 9, 2019

Montgomery County Council members on Monday began working out the details for creating an advisory panel to help improve relations between the community and county’s troubled police department.

“There are a lot of very big policy issues that I think the public has a right to participate in and that’s what this commission is trying to do is say, ‘Police work is not something on the other side of a big wall and the public doesn’t have a say,’” council member Hans Riemer, at-large Democrat, said after an hourlong meeting of the Public Safety Committee. “This is an open democratic system and police are responsive to a democratic process, and the issues that govern police work are community issues.”

Mr. Reimer was the chief sponsor of the legislation (Bill 14-19) to establish a 13-member Policing Advisory Commission. It will be tasked to advise the council on policing matters, make policy recommendations, produce an annual report and host at least one annual public forum to receive community input.

During Monday’s meeting, Mr. Reimer and fellow Democratic council members Will Jawando (at-large), Tom Hucker (District 5), Sidney Katz (District 3) and Gabe Albornoz (at-large) reviewed concerns raised at the public hearing last month and asked questions about the details of the legislation.

Advocacy groups at a public hearing last month requested that commission members be representative of the community in race, ethnicity and age. Mr. Riemer introduced an amendment to address the issues.

Under Bill 14-19, a representative of Montgomery County Police Department and the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) would serve as nonvoting members of the commission.

Some members of the community have voiced opposition to including police representatives, while others have said police members should be allowed to vote on matters concerning their work.

In a letter to the council, the county executive’s office expressed general support for the legislation and suggested that the commission also advise the executive and that the FOP representative be the union’s president or the president’s designee.

Meanwhile, county Executive Marc Elrich is continuing his search for a new police chief after his nominee — Tonya Chapman, the former police chief of Portsmouth, Virginia — withdrew her name from consideration.

Several council members had questioned her nomination. She was asked to resign in Portsmouth from a department that had its own issues over racism, police brutality and challenges with morale and leadership.

The Montgomery County Police Department has weathered a few issues of its own recently.

In July, Officer Kevin Moris was charged with assault after a video went viral of him using his shin to force the head of Arnoldo Pesoa into the ground during an arrest at a McDonald’s in the Aspen Hill Shopping Center.

The department opened an investigation in May over another video of a white police officer using the “N-word” in an encounter with a group of young black men in the McDonald’s parking lot in the White Oak section of Silver Spring.

In April, a department investigation found that Officer Anand Badgujar was justified in fatally shooting Robert White, a 41-year-old unarmed, black man walking near Sligo Creek Parkway in August 2018.

That shooting, which drew plenty of community outrage, prompted Mr. Riemer to begin crafting the legislation to create the commission with the assistance of the local chapter of the NAACP.

The next work session for the legislation has not yet been scheduled.

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