Young adults packed Montgomery County Council chambers in Rockville on Sept. 12 to voice their objection to proposed changes to the county’s Policing Advisory Commission, including eliminating a requirement to have one person age 25 or younger and one person between the ages of 25 and 35 serve on the body.
“We urge the council to listen to its constituents, especially the ones that are most vulnerable to experiencing police misconduct,” said Amyra Hasan, campaign organizer with Young People for Progress, a social justice organization aimed at engaging Montgomery County residents younger than age 35. “Young people are being arrested at rates far exceeding their population in the county, yet they are not considered in decision-making bodies.”
Sami Saeed, who serves as the student member of the Montgomery County Board of Education, cited the statistic that people between the ages of 18 and 34 make up 60% of arrests in Montgomery County.
“If we don’t keep these seats as a requirement of this commission, this commission will fail to represent the most important stakeholders in Montgomery County policing,” Saeed said.
Bill 32-23, sponsored by councilmember Dawn Luedtke (D-Dist. 7), would make amendments to how the commission functions. It would also change the name to Community Advisory Commission on Public Safety in hopes of preventing confusion between the commission and the state-mandated Police Accountability Board.
The legislation was also unpopular with some speakers for its proposed requirement that the body include representatives from the Fraternal Order of Police and the Montgomery County Police Department.
“This bill fundamentally changes the PAC and undermines community involvement in policing accountability,” said Patricia Fenn, communication chair for the Montgomery County chapter of the NAACP. “The Montgomery County NAACP opposes these proposed amendments because we remain committed to ensuring that county residents who symbolize traditionally underrepresented and marginalized communities not only have a forum to express their concerns, but have access to a board that can effectively address the issues raised.”
None of the speakers at the public hearing voiced support for the legislation.
Luedtke said she is still working collaboratively with others on the legislation and thanked the speakers for sharing their views. “There are many things that have been discussed today that need to be discussed more thoroughly in committee sessions,” Luedtke said.
The proposed changes come after Luedtke withdrew a controversial piece of legislation in July that would’ve repealed the commission.
A bill establishing the PAC passed in December 2019 and went into effect in March 2020. Because of the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, members weren’t appointed until July 2020. Those members’ terms expired on July 31. The PAC’s role is to advise the council and county executive on police accountability issues, but its role is not to involve itself in specific complaints or oversight.
In April 2021, the Maryland General Assembly amended the Maryland Public Safety Article to require each county to have a police accountability board. The county passed a resolution in May 2022 in accordance with state law to establish the board. Members of the Police Accountability Board were appointed on June 28, 2022 to terms that started July 1, 2023. The board is fully staffed with an executive director.
“The members of the PAC felt very strongly about having this space,” Luedtke told MoCo360 in July after she withdrew the legislation.
Expedited Bill 27-23, co-sponsored by Luedtke and councilmember Sidney Katz (D-Dist. 3), sought to repeal the commission and to clarify the work of police accountability in the county.
However, after hearing from members of the commission, community members and other councilmembers who opposed the repeal at a public hearing in June, Luedtke said she decided it would be a better approach to instead amend the commission.
A vote on the bill has not been scheduled.