An audit of the Montgomery County Police Department calls for increased training and changes to several department policies.
Robert White was shot and killed by a police officer in Silver Spring almost three years ago. The officer was cleared of wrongdoing, but it led the county executive to request an independent audit of the department as he seeks to change the culture.
“If you’re trained that you’re arriving at the scene and you’re pulling out the gun, you’re shouting get down on the ground and pointing a gun at somebody then you’re probably forgoing the opportunity to have a conversation before it escalates,” Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich said.
Among the audit’s recommendations:
- Strengthen crisis intervention training
- Revise use of force policies to be more comprehensive
- Make internal investigations more independent
- Expand the use of body worn cameras
- Include bias-free, cultural diversity and de-escalation elements in training
- Increase pay for starting officers
“The two biggest concerns are mental health and use of force, particularly against Black and brown people, so our most important recommendations are in those areas,” said David Douglass of Effective Law Enforcement for All.
“It hurts when you rip off a scab, but we have to tell the truth and we have to make dramatic changes, because the system we have is producing unequal justice,” Montgomery County Council member Will Jawando said.
The auditor recommends changing the culture from officers being warriors to being guardians in the community.
Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 35 Vice President Lee Holland said that will be a major shift.
“It’s how you’re trained,” he said. “So if you’ve been here for 15 years and you were trained as a warrior, yeah, it’s going to be hard to change to a guardian mindset.”
But a majority of officers would be willing to adapt, he said.
The county executive plans to discuss the recommendations at a virtual meeting July 7.