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Candidates tout qualifications to join Prince George’s police accountability board

A look at the Prince George’s County Police Department headquarters in Upper Marlboro. Photo by William J. Ford

Seventeen candidates who applied for a position on the Prince George’s County police accountability board offered similar attributes Tuesday, which they say are needed for service: integrity, experience and love for community.

Each was allowed to speak for three minutes during a County Council virtual information session; they  range from community leaders, a retired sociology faculty member from the University of Maryland in College Park, and a paralegal.

One of the main goals, according to county legislation, will be for the board and an administrative charging committee to “reflect the racial, gender, gender-identity, sexual orientation and cultural diversity of the county…and include members with a range of professional or lived experiences.”

Amity Pope, a teacher mentor in the county’s public schools, outlined another personal experience that she felt qualified her for the board: a sexual assault survivor.

“If appointed to serve on this board, I would compel my peers to think in ways that reimagine humanity through an equity lens,” said Pope, also a local activist who co-founded the group PG Changemakers. “I’m grounded in the foundation of being committed to something bigger than myself.”

The county lists several provisions that exclude a person from serving on the police board, such as being a current state, county, or municipal employee or a former or active police officer on a do not call list. The list represents officers whose past conduct makes them unreliable as witnesses in court proceedings.

Peter Miller, a former police officer who know works as an assistant principal in the county’s public schools, said there’s an error on his application with a red “yes” next to being on a do not call list.

“When I read the question, I was not clear of what the question meant. I am not on a no call list of any kind,” he said. “I have left law enforcement. I just assumed that [the state’s attorney’s office doesn’t] call law enforcement officers anymore.”

Saleem Abdul Mateen and Herbert Lacy were the only two candidates who didn’t appear Tuesday.

The council will choose five members on the 11-person board. That’s because County Executive Angela Alsobrooks (D) chooses the other five and the board chair.

The goal will be to approve membership of the board by Oct. 25. Some of their duties will include:

  • Receiving complaints from the public with the name of a law enforcement officer and the name of county or municipal agency.
  • Issuing subpoenas and interview witnesses.
  • Attending law enforcement trainings.

After it’s established, the board can appoint residents to serve on an administrative charging committee and local trial board. The committee would assess complaints about the police and have investigatory powers to recommend discipline for an officer.

An officer can appeal any alleged misconduct finding before a trial board that encompasses a current or retired judge appointed by the county executive, a county resident and a police officer of equal rank appointed by the officer’s police chief.

Although state law prohibits active police officers to serve on the police boards, Maryland jurisdictions aren’t prevented from appointing former officers.

Calvert County has nine members on its board that permits any former police officer to serve if retired for at least five years.

A former police officer may also serve on a nine-member board in Baltimore County. Seven members represent a council district and two at-large members are chosen for the entire county.

In the neighboring city of Baltimore, no more than two police officers or employees of a law enforcement agency can serve on its police board at any one time. The mayor and city council continue work on nominating residents to establish a 17-member board.