Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks shared her concerns with citizens at this session,
Prince George’s County, Md. residents shared their concerns around the rising topic of police accountability with a wide-ranging panel of state and local officials. The discussion on police-worn body cameras and the need for legislative reform emphasized the glaring lack of trust many community members feel towards law enforcement.
The session, held at Mt. Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton, Md., occurred five days after charges were brought against six Baltimorepolice officers for their alleged role in the death of Freddie Gray in April.
“When you have the authority to take life and to take a person’s liberty, that relationship and the trust between our community and public safety is an absolutely sacred relationship,” said Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks. “We never guarantee that mistakes won’t happen, but when they do transparency is the way we respond.”
Alsobrooks pointed out that homicides and violent crime in the county have gone down 40 percent and 37 percent, respectively. But, according to the state’s American Civil Liberties Union Public Policy Director Sarah Love, the county’s police shootings are not seeing ideal numbers.
Since her statement, two Prince George’s County sheriff deputies fatally shot Lionel Young after he allegedly rammed into their police cruiser. The deputies have been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation.
“Across the state of Maryland, at least 109 people have died as a result of a police encounter from 2010-2014,” Love said at the time of the panel. “This is an issue we deeply care about.”
Police reform legislation was a heavy topic that Sen. Victor Ramirez (D-Md.) struggled with, particularly when it came time to explain why 17 police reform bills went without a vote in Annapolis, Md. last month.
He said he agrees police reform is necessary, because some state lawmakers view the bills as “weak on crime” and unsupportive of police. Instead, he focused his advocacy elsewhere.
“If we have the technology, we should have law enforcement officers wearing body cameras when they’re on duty,” Ramirez said. “That’s where accountability starts. Will it solve racism and everything else we see, probably not, but it will hold people accountable.”
Although he says the Fraternal Order of Police has currently not taken a stance on the issue, Maryland FOP President Vince Canales is not so sure body-cameras are the answer and wants to make sure the 22,000 police officers in Maryland are not being discriminated against. He also pointed out to that having cameras on police officers would mean more cameras would be in the community, which he suggested might not be favorable to certain neighborhoods.
“It’s not an ‘us against them’,” Canales said regarding police and the community. “We have to work collaboratively to get things done. We talk about police as if they’re not people. The reality is they’re your neighbors, they attend your churches, their kids go to your schools.”
Attorney J. Wyndal Gordon, chair of the National Bar Association’s Rapid Response Team; Carlos Acosta, County Police Department Inspector General; the Rev. Todd Yeary, senior pastor of Douglas Memorial Community Church in Baltimore; and Maulin Herring, a retired police chief were also panelists. Mt. Ennon’s Senior Pastor Delman Coates served as the moderator.
“We have the power to rebuild trust between the police and the community they serve,” Coates said. “All Marylanders want to live, work, learn, grow, and raise their family in safe communities. It’s our birthright.”