As protests against police brutality and discriminatory practices continue across the country, Baltimore County officials on Friday announced several actions they are taking to reform the police department, including updating the use-of-force policy with community input, requiring all agency members to undergo implicit bias training, and publishing data about police complaints and traffic stops.
Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. said that nationwide protests over the past two weeks, sparked by “the brutal and senseless of George Floyd,” have amplified calls for justice for people killed or unfairly treated by police, and have pushed Baltimore County to implement their own police reforms.
“The protests we’ve seen in Baltimore County and around the country are shining a bright light on what we already knew: that we have a long way to go to achieve equal justice for African American communities and all communities of color,” he said. “Even more, they have been a stark reminder that local leaders have a responsibility to act.”
Olszewski said Baltimore County will sign the Obama Foundation’s pledge to review and update its use-of-force policy with input from community members.
The county is also building public dashboards where it will display data on complaints against police officers, uses of force and traffic stops broken down by race, Olszewski said.
The county will also hire an independent, third-party organization to review the police department’s hiring and recruitment practices, Olszewski added.
Baltimore County Police Chief Melissa Hyatt, who was sworn in as the county’s first female police chief almost exactly one year ago, said that the police department has hired a director of diversity and inclusion. That individual will start on Monday after a more than six-month search to fill the newly created position.
All Baltimore County Police Department officers and employees will attend implicit bias training, and will continue to learn tactics for defusing and de-escalating situations, Hyatt said.
Baltimore County will support legislation to amend Maryland’s Public Information Act to ensure that police disciplinary records are transparent to the public, Olszewski said.
Police disciplinary records and complaints are exempt from disclosure under current Maryland law.
In November, Baltimore County established a work group to address equitable policing after the county found that police issued traffic citations to black people at a higher rate than individuals of other races.
That group, which is chaired by the county’s Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Troy Williams, will be upgraded to a permanent advisory board to identify and address disparities in police practices, Olszewski said.
Williams became Baltimore County’s first ever chief diversity and inclusion officer after the county created the role in 2019. He said that community members are feeling “tremendous pain, frustration and righteous indignation” but that there is also a “collective sense of hope, solidarity and expectation for transformative change.”
Williams added that people inside and outside of government must work together to build a more equitable police department and county.
“We can no longer afford to effectuate change at the margins,” he said. “Change must be transformative, and today represents a significant step in that direction. As we step into this moment together, we must be intentional about restoring the shared vision for fair and impartial governance of our community.”