With less than a month to adhere to a state-imposed July 1 deadline to establish a police accountability board and other police-related measures, Prince George’s County Council and residents continue to debate on how to strengthen those efforts.
Several amendments reviewed Monday include funding the board and an administrative charging committee with at least a half percent of the police department’s general fund budget. The amount allocated in the fiscal 2023 budget includes $1.4 million. A half-percent is estimated at $1.8 million.
Council members Jolene Ivey and Deni Taveras proposed the amount to increase by 1 percent, a figure supported by the ACLU of Maryland and other residents. However, that figure jumps to $3.7 million and the council would need to approve a supplemental budget before July 1.
The amendment approved unanimously Monday came on a “compromise” from Council member Tom Dernoga (D-District 1) of Laurel to allocate 1 percent to fund the board and committee in fiscal 2024.
“This is your democracy in action,” said Todd Turner (D-District 4) of Bowie.
One point of contention was whether the county executive should select the 11 members of the police accountability board.
One floated compromise would grant power to the executive to nominate about five board members and the chair.
However, Council member Edward Burroughs III (D-District 8) of Camp Springs said the county executive shouldn’t be allowed to do that.
“This amendment is about trust,” he said. “In order for this to be successful, every member of the community should have trust that this board should be fair and objective.”
Some residents and activists said during a press conference before the council’s meeting they don’t want the county to follow “tradition” for the county executive to choose any of the members.
“What has she done?” Antonio Mingo of Suitland said about County Executive Angela Alsobrooks’ leadership. “This should already be nipped in the bud and getting handled the right way. We should not be stuck on this.”
Will Milaw, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 112 of the county’s Deputy Sheriff’s Association, believes the council or county executive can choose the police board’s chair.
Milaw also offered advice for the council to not be influenced by outside voices such as the ACLU of Maryland.
“Your power and authority shouldn’t be watered down and punted by some other entity,” he said. “I have full faith and confidence in [the council] … to make these types of decisions.”
Some of the other amendments for the police accountability board include a police officer currently on the “do not call” list to testify on behalf of the state’s attorney, accepting candidates based on cultural diversity, sexual orientation, immigration status and criminal history, and members attending law enforcement agency training sessions.
Sheila Colson traveled from Pennsylvania to testify on behalf of her son Det. Jacai Colson, a Prince George’s County officer shot and killed by a fellow officer during an ambush outside a police station. The officer mistook Colson for one of the three shooters.
The family reached a settlement with the county for $400,000.
“I’m going to come here and do whatever I can to make sure transparency, accountability are held with these police officers,” Colson, whose mother resides in the county, said to the council. “My son is not here. It is left to his parents to make sure things are put in place correctly into helping reform this police department.”
As of 5:15 p.m. Monday, council continued to review the amendments from the meeting that started at about 2:45 p.m.