- The Washington Times - Monday, April 26, 2021

Police reform has become a key concern around the Washington region amid national attention to police brutality and racism.

Members of the Montgomery County Council on Monday spoke with reporters about how county officials plan to implement some of the sweeping police reforms recently enacted by the Democrat-controlled Maryland General Assembly.

Council President Tom Hucker said they are waiting for a staff report on the abolition of the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights, which had established due process protections for officers who were accused of misconduct. Now, civilian boards will be allowed to review complaints about officer misconduct and recommend discipline.

In addition, County Executive Marc Elrich, a Democrat, hired an external firm this year to audit the police department.

Preliminary results are expected in June, and Mr. Hucker said the council is “looking forward to their recommendations.”

“This is Montgomery County. We’re always open to learning about best practices elsewhere and having an independent audit of our police department is a welcome thing, and we’re looking forward to working with the NAACP and other partners to act on those recommendations,” said Mr. Hucker, a Democrat.

In Baltimore, a group gathered Monday outside the city police headquarters for a “Citizens Caravan March.”

Christopher Anderson, a Republican who ran for Baltimore City Council last year, tweeted that the march was to hold “city school, police [and] city hall officials accountable for the corruption in Baltimore.”

The rally comes as Mayor Brandon Scott is facing criticism for proposing a nearly $27 million boost to the police department after the council had cut $22.4 million from its budget last year.

Residents voiced concerns about the funding proposal during Wednesday’s “Virtual Taxpayers Night” town hall meeting, which is archived on the city government’s website.

“I urge you to please refrain from increasing [the] budget — better yet, cut it significantly,” resident Kari Nye said.

Resident Elizabeth Rossi said: “Instead of throwing good money after bad and giving additional funding to expand technology and personnel that will be used to police already-overpoliced communities, money should be invested in afterschool programs, crisis centers, medical care, substance abuse treatment, youth centers and many more community-centered programs that will actually address public safety and community concerns.”

Mr. Scott defended his decision during the meeting and said the additional funding is linked to increased costs of police health insurance and pensions.

The Democratic mayor also brought up his plan to create a task force to review how the police budget can be reduced over the next five years.

At a press conference Thursday, Mr. Scott said officers should not be the first responders to calls about overdoses and mental health crises because the city has “world-class” health institutions for that.

“We are going to still have a police department, and what we’re talking about is putting a group of people together to see how we can responsibly reimagine our city budget so that the burden is not solely on police,” he said.

Meanwhile, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser is set to release her budget proposal before the end of the month.

The proposal comes as the homicides in the city are up 41% from the same time in 2020, which ended in a 16-year high of killings, according to the Metropolitan Police Department website.

Last year, the mayor’s budget included a nearly $18 million increase for MPD. The D.C. Council, however, approved a final budget that slashed roughly $9.6 million from the mayor’s proposed increase.

Miss Bowser warned that the reduction could cause an increase somewhere else down the line, such as costs associated with police overtime.

A few months later, the mayor requested the council redirect $43 million in budget funds to cover police overtime expenses following months of protests and civil unrest.

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