What is the Police Accountability Board?
The Police Accountability Board (PAB) is a citizen board that is comprised of seven voting members: two at-large members, and one from each of the five councilmanic districts. The board was enacted as part of the police accountability and discipline process enacted by the legislature as stated in the Maryland Police Accountability Act of 2021 which replaces the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights.
In Garrett County, County Administrator Kevin Null established the Police Accountability Board (PAB) in February 2022. The board will work with law enforcement agencies to review outcomes of complaint investigations, review policy, and determine trends that could improve policing and otherwise works with law enforcement agencies in the county government to improve matters of policing. The Board will also provide a yearly report to the County Council on its activities and will meet with a youth representative two times per year.
What are the main responsibilities of the Garrett County Police Accountability Board?
The Police Accountability Board’s responsibilities include the following actions:
- Accepts and forwards complaints from citizens for investigation by the police and sheriff’s departments
- Appoints members to Charging Committees and Trial Boards
- Reviews outcomes of disciplinary matters considered by the Charging Committees and Trial Boards
- Submits an annual report to the County that identifies any trends in disciplinary actions against law enforcement personnel
- Makes policy recommendations that would improve police accountability and meets with community youth representatives at least twice a year
- Holds quarterly meetings with heads of law enforcement agencies and otherwise works with law enforcement agencies in the county government to improve matters of policing (Maryland Public Safety Code Ann. § 3-102)
What will the process for handling complaints of police misconduct look like?
Starting July 1, 2022, the PAB or Law Enforcement agency receives a misconduct complaint from the public. Complaints may be sent anonymously. These complaints are then sent to the Law Enforcement Agency for investigation.
Upon completion of the investigation, the Law Enforcement Agency forwards the investigatory file to the Administrative Charging Committee, which reviews the file and determines whether to charge the officer.
- If the officer/deputy IS NOT charged, meaning the allegations are unfounded or the officer is exonerated, the Administrative Charging Committee will issue a written opinion detailing findings, determinations, and recommendations.
- If the officer/deputy IS charged, the Administrative Charging Committee will still issue a written opinion detailing findings, determinations, and disciplinary recommendations.
- The Chief of Police or Sheriff then offers discipline recommended by the Administrative Charging Committee or a higher level according to the state-created disciplinary matrix. The Chief or Sheriff may not issue a lesser level of discipline.
- The officer or deputy then has the option to accept the discipline or have the matter referred to a Trial Board for a hearing.
Will the Police Accountability Board follow the laws of the Open Meetings Act?
Yes. The legislation requires the Police Accountability Board to comply with the Open Meetings Act.
What are the terms of members on the PAB?
The membership terms are staggered for 1, 2, and 3 years.
One (1) appointee shall have a term of one (1) year, two (2) appointees shall have a term of two years, and two (2) appointees, one of which shall be the chairperson, shall have a term of three years, as provided in the Resolutions that confirm the appointments, which shall become effective July 1, 2022
Are police officers permitted on the PAB?
No. An active police officer is not permitted to be on the PAB under State law. Retired or former officers are not prohibited from serving on the Board.
What was the appointment process for members?
The County Executive invited eligible and interested parties to apply for consideration with confirmation of appointments by the County Commissioners.
How are members of the Administrative Charging Committee and Trial Board chosen?
Members of the Administrative Charging Committee and Trial Boards are appointed by the Police Accountability Board and by the County Executive. State law requires the Police Accountability Board to appoint two (2) members to the Administrative Charging Committee and one (1) to the Trial Board.
How are discipline decisions made by this Administrative Charging Committee?
The Charging Committee will use the Model Uniform State Disciplinary Matrix as responsive measures to determine whether a police officer’s sustained violation of an agency’s policy. This Matrix was developed for all jurisdictions throughout the State of Maryland as part of the legislation that developed the Police Accountability Board structure.
The Disciplinary Matrix includes a breakdown of six different categories of violations, labeled A through F, with A as the lowest level of discipline and F as the highest.
- Each category is defined, along with example violations.
- Three penalty levels are included in each category which are based on the number of similar violations in a specified period of time.
- A disciplinary range is used for assessing the recommended discipline.
- Based on aggravating and mitigating factors, the disciplinary range can increase or decrease upon review of the totality of the circumstances surrounding the sustained violation.
Who maintains the Disciplinary Matrix and where is it kept?
The Disciplinary Matrix will be maintained and published by the Maryland Police Training and Standards Commission on its public website.