Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich last week was joined by Montgomery County Police Department Chief Marcus Jones and Reimagining Public Safety Task Force Co-Chair Bernice Mireku-North for a presentation of the final recommendations by Effective Law Enforcement for All (ELEFA) that offer improvements for Montgomery County Police in officer education, supervision, practices, accountability and public transparency.
The full report can be found here. To view the press conference of the presentation, click here.
Since July 2020, ELEFA has partnered with County officials, the Montgomery County Police Department (MCPD), the Reimagining Public Safety (RPS) Task Force and local residents to identify, evaluate and recommend structural and systemic improvements the department can implement to achieve a shared vision of safe and effective law enforcement.
ELEFA’s audit included evaluation of the department’s organizational culture, policies, resources, transparency, procedures and operations. The preliminary report, issued in June 2021, identified a number of opportunities for improvement. Since then, ELEFA has continued its audit, working in close cooperation with MCPD and other constituent organizations.
“Too often law enforcement has been left to manage situations that society has failed to address that is neither their job nor responsibility,” said County Executive Elrich. “There has been a misconception that we have to choose between public safety, transparency and accountability. We need public safety, but that can only be achieved through a partnership between police and the community. I believe adopting many of the recommendations made by Effective Law Enforcement for All will further our reimagining public safety efforts and build safer communities throughout the County. By improving trainings as well as expanding our efforts to address mental health, we will provide more meaningful help for people in crisis with fewer negative interactions.”
ELEFA’s David Douglas said the final report reflected the input of many people.
“Since July 2020, Effective Law Enforcement for All has partnered with County officials, the MCPD, the Reimagining Public Safety Task Force, and local residents to identify, evaluate and recommend structural and systemic improvements the department can implement to achieve a shared vision of safe and effective law enforcement in Montgomery County, MD,” said Mr. Douglas. “Our report is truly the product of constructive collaboration between County stakeholders, the public and the department. The efforts of the MCPD, the County and members of the RPS Task Force are a testimony to the power of collaborative change. Your work will not only have a positive impact on policing in Montgomery County, but will serve as a model for communities nationwide. We look forward to our continued work with Montgomery County to support the implementation of our recommendations.”
Montgomery County Police Chief Marcus Jones said his department is moving quickly to implement recommendations from the report.
“For more than a year, the Montgomery County Police Department has worked closely with Effective Law Enforcement for All with one goal in mind – to improve the law enforcement services we provide to the more than one million residents in our County,” said Chief Jones. “We have already implemented some of the changes recommended in the report, particularly in the areas of training and crisis intervention. We have created a new De-escalation/Use of Force training unit for more specific focus on these important issues. We have also improved our Crisis Intervention program by working with the Behavioral Health Crisis Collaboration on a response model that will help officers respond more efficiently to calls or, in some cases, not responding to a call when more appropriate services are available.”
The Elrich administration has invested in the continued expansion of the Mobile Crisis and Outreach Teams (MCOTs). Those teams have increased the calls that receive a mental health provider only or a joint mental health provider and law enforcement response.
In 2020, MCOTs responded to 495 calls for service. In 2021, that number increased to 979. The expansion will continue and move to more mental health professional-only responses. Moving more mental health responses away from police responses allows the police to focus on other law enforcement challenges and crime prevention measures, provides more meaningful help for people in mental health crises and results in fewer negative interactions. To continue to divert mental health calls away from the criminal justice system, the County, with support from the Maryland General Assembly, is building a Restoration Center that will further divert those experiencing a mental health or addiction crisis away from the criminal justice system and toward additional treatment services.
Key recommendations in the final report include:
- Use of Force: ELEFA made several recommendations to improve the training, management and investigation of uses of force.
- Mental Health and Crisis Response: Building on the observations in the preliminary report, ELEFA has made recommendations intended to improve the County’s capacity to respond to individuals experiencing a mental or emotional health crisis, to enhance officer mental health crisis response training and to ensure better understanding by officers and the public of the resources available.
- Internal Investigations: ELEFA made recommendations to ensure that uses of force and misconduct complaints are independently, uniformly and transparently investigated and reported.
- Training: ELEFA made a series of recommendations to improve the quality of recruit and in-service training, including Field Officer Training (FTO) and to expand training to improve cultural sensitivity and reduce the risks presented by explicit and implicit bias. ELEFA recommends that the academy emphasize a “guardian” approach over a “warrior” mindset, which was also a recommendation of the RPS Task Force.
- Data Collection and Analysis: ELEFA recommended improvements to the MCPD’s data analysis systems to achieve user-friendly, integrated and comprehensive data analysis capacity.
- Early Warning and Intervention System (EWIS): One of the key recommendations is that MCPD adopt an Early Warning and Intervention System. By flagging warning signs that an officer is demonstrating performance issues or is suffering from emotional, mental or physical health concerns, an effective and comprehensive EWIS system allows supervisors to intervene proactively to prevent harm to the officer or the public, thus saving careers and lives.
- Body Worn Cameras: Recommended expanded deployment of Body Worn Cameras (BWCs) and improvements to the standards guiding the recording of officers’ interactions on duty.
- Recruitment: recommendations intended to strengthen an already robust MCPD recruitment program, including more intentional consideration of diversity and inclusion, competitive compensation, incentives and enhanced technology (for background investigators).
“I’m grateful Effective Law Enforcement Change for All completed the audit necessary to help us evolve into what public safety should look like in Montgomery County,” said Reimagining Public Safety Task Force Co-Chair Bernice Mireku-North. “Thanks to the cooperation and commitments from our County Executive, Chief of Police, Fraternal Order of Police and other County stakeholders, our community can now move forward with concrete changes the community desires in our police department and public safety in general. I look forward to convening with the task force members to review and discuss the audit to help with the necessary changes to make Montgomery County safe for all of us.”