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Howard County Advances Measure To Form Police Accountability Board

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Howard County Executive Calvin Ball has signed a bill to form a police accountability board to review complaints against members of the county's law enforcement agencies, the county announced Tuesday.

Once formed, the board will serve as a clearinghouse for citizen complaints against the Howard County Police Department and the Howard County Sheriff's Office. The board will be tasked with evaluating the results of investigations into complaints.

The creation of the board, Ball said, will increase transparency and help strengthen the relationship between law enforcement and the communities they serve.

"Prioritizing public safety and reinforcing public trust can go hand in hand, and each remains a priority of my administration," the county executive said. "(The board) will ensure transparency and engage our residents as partners in accountability."

The legislation authorizing the establishment of a police accountability board was previously approved by the Howard County Council. Each county was required to create such a board under the Maryland Police Accountability Act of 2021.

Howard County's board will be comprised of seven members, one from each of the county council's districts and two at-large members.

The county executive will select the board members, whose appointments must be confirmed by the council. Appointees must be county residents who are at least 25 years old, and they will be required to undergo criminal background checks.

Besides its quarterly meetings, the panel will meet twice a year with local youth. The board will also appoint members to charging committees and trial boards, and it will produce an annual report detailing trends and recommendations.

The board can also accept and pass along complaints against law enforcement and review the results of disciplinary matters against officers and sheriff's deputies.

Howard County Police Chief Greg Der said the police department welcomes opportunities to build trust and transparency.

"While the number of external complaints against HCPD officers is very low, these processes will help maintain integrity and community support," Chief Der said.

Sheriff Marcus Harris said the board's duties fall in line with one of his chief goals: building rapport between the Howard County Sheriff's Office and the community.

"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," the sheriff said.

The county executive previously signed a budget amendment setting aside $500,000 for Howard County's body camera program, and he allocated $1.6 million in federal funds for the same purpose.

The program is on track to be in place ahead of a 2023 deadline set by the Maryland General Assembly.

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