ELLICOTT CITY, MD – Howard County Executive Calvin Ball has signed legislation establishing Howard County’s Police Accountability Board, calling the measure an important step toward building trust and creating stronger ties between the Howard County Police Department and the community.
When fully operational, the board will review the outcome of complaint investigations to determine discipline and identify trends that could improve policing. The board will also accept and forward complaints from citizens for investigation by the police and sheriff’s departments. Local authority establishing the board had been approved by the County Council and was required under a state law adopted in 2021.
Prioritizing public safety and reinforcing public trust can go hand in hand, and each remains a priority of my administration. Howard County’s Police Accountability Board will ensure transparency and engage our residents as partners in accountability.
Howard County’s Board will be made up of seven voting members, two at-large members and one from each of the five councilmanic districts. Members will be appointed by the County Executive and confirmed by the Howard County Council. Appointed members must be county residents, at least 25 years old and have a committed interest and active involvement in Howard County community service. Members will have to undergo a criminal background check and sign a non-disclosure agreement as a condition of appointment. Police and Sheriff’s liaisons will facilitate any needed data, reports, or written directives, or to assist with understanding relevant policies and procedures.
The Howard County Police Department welcomes opportunities to promote community trust and transparency. The Police Accountability Board will serve as a community-based means of identifying trends in the disciplinary process and offering recommendations for policy changes to improve accountability. While the number of external complaints against HCPD officers is very low, these processes will help maintain integrity and community support.
“One of my main objectives as a law enforcement leader in Howard County is to build a strong relationship between my Office and the community that we serve,” said Sheriff Marcus Harris.
“The Police Accountability Board will be a tremendous tool in helping us build this relationship by providing a level of transparency that did not exist before as well as maintaining the integrity that I require for my Office.”
In addition to its quarterly meetings, the board will be required to meet with community youth representatives at least twice a year and appoint members to Charging Committees and Trial Boards. The board may receive complaints of police misconduct filed by members of the public and review outcomes of disciplinary matters considered by the Charging Committee. The board will also be required to submit an annual report to the County that identifies any trends in disciplinary action against law enforcement personnel and makes policy recommendations that would improve police accountability. Complaints of police misconduct filed with the board will be forwarded to the appropriate law enforcement agency within three business days after it is received. Per HB-670, the Maryland Police Accountability Act, these activities will begin on or after July 1, 2022.
The Police Accountability Board builds on County Executive Ball’s improve best practices in community policing. Last year, Ball signed a budget amendment releasing nearly $500,000 in County funding from contingency in the FY2022 operating budget for Howard County’s body-worn camera program. Ball also utilized $1.6 million in American Rescue Plan (ARP) to provide funding for the body-worn camera program to be fully implemented ahead of the 2023 Maryland General Assembly mandate.