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Police accountability board gets to work in Prince George’s, but still missing one member

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

The Prince George’s County Police Accountability Board held its first two meetings this week to review ethics rules, assess disciplinary complaints, and get up to speed on state of Maryland and county policies and other duties.

A virtual session held Monday lasted nearly three hours and included a greeting from Barry Stanton on behalf of County Executive Angela Alsobrooks (D).

“Getting to this point is historic. You’re going to be overseeing police accountability in the entire county. Your role is something that’s been a long time coming,” said Stanton, the county’s deputy chief administrative officer for public safety and homeland security. “You’re going to change the role of policing in Prince George’s County for many, many, many years to come.”

The 11-member board was formed in response to a state law passed last year. Residents submitted applications and the chosen members were nominated by Alsobrooks and the county council.

The council approved five nominees Alsobrooks presented in September – Shelia F. Bryant, Kelvin Davall (police accountability board chair), Lafayette Melton, Marsha Ridley and Daniel Vergamini.

A sixth spot remains unfilled because the county executive wants to nominate a person from the Latino community to represent a diverse board. That person must also be approved by the council, but in the meantime, six new members on the 11-member body will be sworn in next month.

The remaining five people selected by the council are Andrea Coleman, Keenon James, Earl O’Neal, former state Del. Carlo Sanchez (D) and Tamika Springs. The biographies of each member can be read here.

The police accountability board heard a few presentations this week, which included a summary of various pieces of state legislation that focused on police reform.

County Attorney Rhonda Weaver reiterated that the board must follow all portions of the state law, including holding quarterly meetings “or more frequently” if necessary; reviewing complaints filed by residents and officers from a county or municipal police department; participating in some law enforcement training; and seeking community input on policing.

The board will appoint two residents two serve on an administrative charging committee and one person to a trial board. The charging committee will review allegations made against a police officer and recommend disciplinary action.

An officer can appeal a decision before a three-member trial board that includes a resident, an officer of equal rank and a former or current judge. If an officer disagrees with the board’s decision, that person can file an appeal to the county’s Circuit Court.

James, a police reform advocate who unsuccessfully ran in this year’s Democratic primary election for a state delegate seat to represent District 23, asked Weaver if the state law includes law enforcement personnel on a college campus such as the University of Maryland in College Park, Bowie State University and Prince George’s Community College.

Weaver believes they would be covered but said she will double check to make sure.

The board held a second hearing Wednesday and approved three finalists to interview for two positions on the administrative charging committee. About 15 people applied to serve on the five-member committee that includes two other residents chosen by the county executive and the police accountability board chair or a designee of the PAB.

No date has been set on when interviews would be conducted or when a formal vote would take place to choose the two candidates.

In the meantime, other jurisdictions continue to hold police accountability board public sessions as they begin to implement the new state law.

Wicomico County’s board convened Wednesday afternoon and Baltimore County plans to hold its next meeting at 6 p.m. Friday.

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott (D) submitted nominees for the PAB to the city council on Nov. 7. Those five people are: Mansur Abdul-Malik; Marc Broady; Janetta Gilmore; Lisa Nguyen; and Avi Wolasky.

The council’s Rules and Legislative Oversight Committee will review those nominees at 1 p.m. Thursday.

Council members will also submit nominees for the city’s 17-member police board that will be overseen by the Office of Equity and Civil Rights, which also has five commissions and offices under its umbrella.

The council is scheduled to meet Monday.