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Justice

Alsobrooks’ police accountability board nominees gain Council recommendation

Prince George’s County Council’s Committee of the Whole convenes virtually Oct. 11 to hear remarks from nominees chosen to serve on a police accountability board. Screen shot courtesy of Prince George’s County Council.

Prince George’s County moved another step closer Tuesday to creating the majority Black jurisdiction’s first police accountability board.

The County Council met as a Committee of the Whole and gave preliminary approval to five nominees submitted by County Executive Angela Alsobrooks (D) for that board.

Those nominees are Sheila F. Bryant, Kelvin Davall, Lafayette Melton, Marsha Ridley and Daniel Vergamini. Davall is Alsobrooks’ choice to serve as the board’s chair.

Per an agreement this summer with the County Council, Alsobrooks can appoint a sixth person to serve on the 11-member board.

Miriam Brewer, an appointments liaison in the county executive’s office, said that the sixth person that Alsobrooks had chosen to serve was a member of the Latino community, but has moved out of the county. She said the office hopes to wrap up selecting a new person from that community in the next two weeks.

The council selects the other five accountability board members.

County residents submitted applications and the county executive and council held separate public online sessions in September for applicants to make their pitches for a slot on the board.

The police accountability board will replace the county’s Citizen Complaint Oversight Panel which was abolished in July. Davall, Ridley and Vergamini served on that panel.

Vergamini said the accountability board would permit a comprehensive assessment of patterns and procedures within the county and municipal police departments.

He said the old panel had reviewed complaints filed by police officers as well as those filed against police. Under the new structure, he said a law enforcement agency’s internal affairs division would assess referrals or complaints from police officers.

“Only external referrals or complaints by citizens will be reviewed, so that is something maybe we could look at, we can examine how we can look at that,” Vergamini said.

Councilmember Todd Turner (D) said that the accountability board structure was set by the legislature last year and “we have to be in compliance by the state law.”

Each of the 23 counties and Baltimore city can set the number of people that serve on the police board and an administrative charging committee that will recommend whether an officer should be disciplined.

The charging committee may also issue subpoenas. An officer can appeal a decision before a local trial board, to be established in each jurisdiction.

The Council also gave preliminary approval to two of the county’s executive’s nominees — Natalie L. Stephenson and William T. “Bill” Scott — to serve on the five-member charging committee.

Stephenson works as an educator in the county’s public schools and served on the Citizen Complaint Oversight Panel last year.

Scott, a Marine Corps veteran, works as a service director conducting security and risk assessments for ABS Group, which provides services to government and industry.

Once established the police accountability board would appoint two more members to the charging committee and the board’s chair would select a fifth member.

The council plans to meet and possibly vote on its accountability board nominees Oct. 18.

A public hearing on the county executive’s nominees is scheduled for Oct. 24.

To be appointed the nominees must receive final approval by the council.

Alsobrooks extends juvenile curfew

The developments on the Police Accountability Board came as Alsobrooks announced Tuesday that enforcement of the county’s curfew for juveniles will be extended through the end of the year. Alsobrooks said it has helped protect children and coincided with a drop in crime in the county.

When Alsobrooks announced stronger enforcement of the youth curfew on Labor Day, she said it would last for 30 days but could be extended.

“Our curfew was successful in many of the ways we hoped,” Alsobrooks said during a news conference Tuesday afternoon, after the initial 30-day period. “Not only did we engage parents in our community more deeply, but we were also able to provide greater protection to a number of our youth.”

The curfew requires teens under 17 to be off the streets between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and between 11:59 a.m. and 5 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Under the curfew, parents can be fined if their children violate the curfew.

Over the past 30 days, the police department reported just four curfew violations. Incidents included a 16-year-old girl who was with another teen who had been arrested on a gun charge and a 14-year-old who had stolen his mother’s car and was joy riding at 1:30 a.m., according to authorities.

In each of the four violations that police reported, parents were issued a warning but were not fined. Alsobrooks said families were also offered resources through the Hope in Action coalition.

Overall, crime fell by 13% in the county during the period, including a 24% reduction in violent crime, Prince George’s County Police Chief Malik Aziz said on Tuesday.

Specifically during the overnight curfew hours, the county saw a 20% drop in overall crime, a 59% drop in carjackings and a 50% drop in shootings, he said.

Officials acknowledged it’s too soon to attribute the drop in crime solely to the curfew.

“I think all of us would agree it’s probably premature to say that was the exact reason,” Alsobrooks said, pointing to other steps taken by the police department over the past 30 days, including additional overtime. “But we are encouraged by the results that we have seen.”

Jack Moore of WTOP News contributed to this report.