Police reform is my priority

Dear Resident,

You may have seen the news and footage about a 5 year old boy who was handcuffed and traumatized by police officers in Silver Spring, while MCPS staff did not intervene.

A tragedy like this should have never happened. It is absolutely unacceptable.

It is also a symptom of decades of leaning too heavily on our criminal justice system to solve problems in society. We need major changes to police work as well as a big shift in how we respond to youth in schools and people with social service or mental health needs.

Does that mean “defund” or “abolish” police? No — it means prioritizing police reform and charting a new vision for improved social services. Our police officers should be focused on solving serious crimes and keeping us safe.

To get there, your elected officials need to make reform their priority — and take on the defenders of the status quo.

For nearly three years now I have worked with community groups and youth organizations to advance a wide array of initiatives including

  1. Creating our landmark Policing Advisory Commission, which convenes community leaders to advance best practices, such as better training and data (Bill 14-19)
  2. Reforming how discipline works to empower the Police Chief to discipline officers who violate policies — and abolishing the FOP’s dysfunctional discipline policy that has been found highly problematic as highlighted in this NY Times editorial (Bill 34-20)
  3. Bringing transparency to the collective bargaining agreement and limiting the FOP’s ability to undermine critical public policy objectives adopted by the Council or MCPD Chief (Bill 34-20)
  4. Reducing racial-profiling bias by de-emphasizing traffic enforcement at MCPD and increasing automated operations that can be managed by MCDOT
  5. Providing open and better data about the operations of the police department
  6. Replacing police officers in schools with trauma informed care and a restorative justice model that does not rely on police and does not result in arrests for our youth, who deserve better — legislation I co-authored with Councilmember Jawando (Bill 46-20) that has forced this conversation.

Finally, I’ve supported proposals from my colleagues including legislation proposed by Councilmembers Jawando, Rice, Navarro, and Albornoz to limit abuse of force as well legislation by Councilmember Jawando to require independent investigations when there are incidents.

To boost a mental health based approach I’ve supported appropriations, such as those proposed by Council President Hucker, to create community crisis teams that can respond to 911 calls and address mental health needs for individuals without escalation or criminalization.

Some of these reforms have been enacted, and some are still before the Council.

I’m going to keep working on this because every resident deserves to feel confident that police officers are there to protect them. It is a matter of fairness and also racial justice.

Police officers put their lives on the line and they deserve our support; just as the powers they wield must come with transparency and accountability.

I believe these reforms will help restore confidence in policing — and when there is greater community trust and success, we will see more people who want to go into public safety as a career.

It is work like this that motivated me to get into public service in the first place.

If we make reform a priority, we can do this.