Former District Heights, Maryland, Mayor Johnathan Medlock officially became a member of the Prince George’s County Council on Monday.
Medlock will serve through December on the 11-member body to complete the remaining four-year term of former council member Derrick Leon Davis, who resigned last month.
“I feel excited. It’s a great day for myself and Prince George’s County and the District 6 residents,” he said after a nearly 30-minute swearing-in ceremony. “I’m looking forward to really getting in. We have a lot of work to do.”
The biggest item he will jump into deals with the county’s proposed $5 billion fiscal 2023 budget. According to the council calendar, a spending plan could be adopted on May 26.
In the meantime, Medlock received support from his new colleagues, County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, state officials and community leaders. He will represent the District 6 area, which includes the city of District Heights, Forestville and Largo.
“Over the years, I have had the pleasure of working with many mayors in this state. Each and every one of them brings their own unique talent and skills to the job,” said Maryland Senate President Pro Tem Melony Griffith (D-District 25) of Upper Marlboro. “What I saw in Johnathan Medlock when he took that office of [District Heights] commissioner first and then mayor is a public servant who understands the importance of partnership and collaboration.”
Dr. Lamont Bunyon, president of 100 Black Men of Prince George’s County, said he first met Medlock six or seven years ago at a library in District Heights while Medlock read to children.
“He wasn’t a member of the 100 at that time. He was just volunteering,” Bunyon said. “Later on, he became a member of our brotherhood that serves this county and he became one of our best leaders. This is a man of high integrity who lives by his motto: ‘It’s always forward. It’s never backwards.’”
After all the pleasantries and handshakes, Medlock participated in his first meeting when council sat as the District Council to review cases on land use matters and zoning. Then, council convened as a Committee of the Whole to review the police budget and law enforcement measures based on Maryland legislation approved last year.
One of the public safety items all jurisdictions must establish deals with incorporating a police accountability board, slated as an independent body to receive and assess certain allegations of police misconduct. Council decided not to make any recommendations at the present and to continue the discussion.
Part of the law enforcement restructuring came after the May 2020 killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police captured on video, which drew international protests against police brutality and racism.
Last year, Maryland lawmakers gave approval to the 23 counties and Baltimore City to establish a police accountability board and two others – an administrative charging committee and a trial board – to assess all police agencies in the state. The committee would review allegations and recommend possible disciplinary action. If a police officer disagrees, a local trial board would review the matter.
Council member Deni Taveras (D-District 2) of Adelphi asked about the diversity of the boards.
“When are we going to have time to work through this so that the comments that I have . . . can truly be incorporated?” she said. “I’d appreciate to see [the diversity of these boards] before we finalize these processes.”
Beverly John, coordinator for Prince George’s County Coalition for Police Accountability, said residents haven’t been able to participate in the selection process.
According to a March 23 letter to John from Barry Stanton, the county received nearly 100 applications in January to serve on the police accountability board. Approximately 37 “were subsequently interviewed” and nine selected for interviews with the county executive to appear before the County Council for confirmation.
Stanton, deputy chief administrative officer for the county’s Public Safety and Homeland Security, wrote the confirmation process will include a “public comment period.”
The proposed legislation notes 11 people would serve on the accountability board. State law requires the 23 counties and Baltimore City to incorporate the boards by July 1.
“We really need . . . town hall type of discussions where you are educating your community and your constituents on what this really means [and] why it is important to them,” said John of Hyattsville, co-founder of Concerned Citizens for Bail Reform in Prince George’s County. “That is really the missing piece of the discussions you all are having right now.”