Categories
County Council Education Uncategorized

Legislation will be introduced to remove SROs from schools

On Saturday at a protest calling for the defunding of Montgomery County Police, Councilmembers Will Jawando and Hans Riemer announced that they would introduce legislation that would remove school resource officers from Montgomery County Public Schools. They will recommend that these funds be used to increase mental health resources, including counselors, and nurses.

Councilmember Jawando stated that:

“It’s not just enough to remove the potential harm of the police, you’ve got to invest that money into things the kids need. … It’s our job to say what our police can and cannot do,” Jawando said in an interview on Saturday. “We pass the laws and the executive has to implement them. It’s totally within our rights since this SRO program is totally funded through the police budget, that we would say, ‘Hey, you can’t do that.’”

Jawando, Riemer announce bill to get rid of police officers in schools

Previously, the Montgomery County School Board requested further research into the issue before making a decision. When this issue was brought before the Montgomery County Council, several members were reluctant to make any changes and tabled the discussion until the Board of Education made recommendations.

Data that is currently available has shown that Black youth are disproportionately arrested at MCPS schools. This correlates with findings nationally.

If you support the removal of police from schools, you should email all of the Councilmembers, as well as the County Executive. Their e-mails are below. If you need a template for what to say, I’ve placed what I sent below as well.

TO: marc.elrich@montgomerycountymd.gov, councilmember.glass@montgomerycountymd.gov, councilmember.hucker@montgomerycountymd.gov, Councilmember.Albornoz@montgomerycountymd.gov, councilmember.riemer@montgomerycountymd.gov, Councilmember.Friedson@montgomerycountymd.gov, Councilmember.Jawando@montgomerycountymd.gov, councilmember.rice@montgomerycountymd.gov, councilmember.katz@montgomerycountymd.gov, councilmember.navarro@montgomerycountymd.gov

BODY:

Dear County Executive Elrich, Council President Katz, and members of the County Council,

My name is Vito Anastasia and I live in Bethesda. I’ve lived in Montgomery County for the past five years and have decided to make it my home. In the past few years I’ve been an active member of the local queer community, a member of the LGBTQ Democrats of Montgomery County, and have started MoCo Local as a passion project.

I write to you today to ask that you abolish School Resource Officers from Montgomery County Public Schools. Councilmember Jawando and Councilmember Riemer will be introducing legislation to do just that and I urge you to support it.

We know that Black students make up just 21% of the student population but account for 48% of arrests at MCPS. We also know that Maryland incarcerates Black youth and adults at much higher rates than many other states. Students do not need police in schools. They need more counselors, access to more and better programs for youth, workforce development opportunities, and free, safe public spaces. We have got to stop criminalizing and penalizing students when we do not offer adequate services to help them navigate all of the struggles that they face. We have to end the school to prison pipeline.

I urge the County Council to abolish the School Resource Officer program and instead:

  1. Reinvest funds into mental health programs and resources, including additional counselors
  2. Reinvest funds into more full-time nurses
  3. Invest in harm reduction programs including affordable housing, homelessness services for youth, workforce development, and dedicated free and safe spaces for youth

Police do not prevent crime, they react to it. We have been witness to countless murders at police hands and have seen how different Black youth and adults are policed versus white youth and adults. We have to do better.

Best regards,

Vito Anastasia

Categories
Montgomery County

Silver Spring Justice Coalition, Residents to Protest Prosecutor’s Decision not to Charge Officer in Finan Behre’s Murder Tonight at 7pm in Silver Spring

Following the news today that Prosecutors would not be charging Sgt. David Cohen for the murder of Finan Berhe, Silver Spring Justice Coalition will be holding a protest at Veteran’s Plaza in Downtown Silver Spring, MD.

Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy wrote that “[t]he threat caused by Finan Berhe running directly at Sgt. Cohen with a large kitchen knife, as well as Berhe’s nonresponsive actions to Cohen’s demands to put the knife down, justified the use of deadly force”

Silver Spring Justice Coalition’s call to action is below:

Categories
Opinion

OPINION: Local Law Enforcement Doesn’t Know How to Read the Room

As we do the work required to make our County safer for every resident, especially our Black neighbors, we need to take a long and hard look at the system that has allowed systemic racism to continue, and in some instances, flourish in Montgomery County. One of the first things you learn when trying to be an ally, and especially an anti-racist, is the need to listen. Listening to the folks that are being impacted the most by these policies and systems is one of the first steps in rectifying the harm caused.

Earlier this week, Councilmember Tom Hucker organized a “Community Discussion on Policing” but failed to invite activists within the Black community that has been calling out systemic racism in Montgomery County for years. Worse, though, is the fact that Councilmember Hucker asked a representative from the Fraternal Order of Police to be a part of the discussion. Both MCPD Chief Marcus Jones and Torrie Cooke from the FOP were allowed to answer questions about the budget and asked for additional funds to pay for more training and hire more resources. They called for changing the current structure of the MCPD. Still, they refused to discuss the need to defund and reallocate funds from the MCPD budget and put them into areas that would benefit the community more.

I released an initial statement on my thoughts about the discussion on Twitter:

A few days later, Law Enforcement Officials announced a discussion about Law Enforcement and the Community but failed to invite any members of the community as panelists.

This is a disgrace. Montgomery County deserves better than this. These are conversations Montgomery County should have had years ago with the killing of Emmanuel Okutuga in 2011, or in 2018 after the murder of Robert White or this past May after the killing of Finan Berhe. The protests around the County and region were sparked by the murder of George Floyd-and let’s be clear; it was a murder, not an “abhorrent loss of life”-aren’t really about George Floyd. They are about the systemic racism within Montgomery County Law Enforcement agencies, like MCPD, that allows the status quo to continue.

Local activists within the Black community have been calling for the need to change for years. The Montgomery County Council only recently passed the Racial Justice and Social Equity bill. The Council also just established the Police Advisory Committee. These are all reasonable first steps, but more needs to be done.

Community organizations in Montgomery County are calling this discussion performative, and it feels like it is. Only after hundreds, maybe thousands now, of emails to defund MCPD are they starting to hint that they may be open to change. However, if you want to have an honest conversation with the community, you need to invite them to the table. Having conversations that center around Law Enforcement is not the way forward. Montgomery County needs to take to heart what members of the Black community have to say, and Law Enforcement should listen.

We aren’t going to solve the systemic racism in Montgomery County by training police more, hiring more of them, and ignoring the fact that MCPD has killed three black men in the past decade. Our way forward, and at this point, the only way is to engage with anti-racist community organizations as equal participants in these conversations.

Categories
County Council

Councilmembers to introduce legislation on Police Use of Force

In a statement released on social media, Councilmembers Jawando, Rice, Navarro and Albornoz stated that they will be releasing legislation that will limit police Use of Force. Below is their full statement, reprinted.

Statement of Councilmembers Jawando, Rice, Navarro and Albornoz Related to Use of Force Legislation

The last few weeks have highlighted a national trend of the types of policing practices that have led to fatal or dangerous outcomes for the community, and specifically community members of color. Here in Montgomery County we are not immune. We believe we can do better. And doing better means building systems that root out injustice and working with law enforcement to build relationships with the communities they serve. We need our police to be our guardians, not warriors seeing danger in every interaction.

Most recently, the County Council has sought to ensure racial equity, social justice and inclusion throughout our county. The Council has also worked hard to increase transparency and accountability in the actions of the Montgomery County Police Department. This is supported by County legislation including the Racial Equity and Social Justice Act, the Law Enforcement Trust and Transparency (LETT) Act, Policing Advisory Commission, the Community Policing Law, the Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair (CROWN) Act and the Remembrance and Reconciliation Commission.

Together in the coming weeks, we will be introducing legislation to further protect the civil rights of county residents, increase police accountability and create safer and more inclusive communities for everyone who calls Montgomery County home. Specifically, our bill would set a higher standard for use of force by police, outlaw certain deadly tactics such as choke-holds, and require police officers to intervene if a fellow officer is committing a crime or violating department policy. We look forward to working with the County Executive and the Montgomery County Police Department on this initiative. These measures are a necessary step intended to protect the safety of residents during interactions with law enforcement, which will in turn help to build trust with law enforcement.