Meaningful SWAT reform at risk in Annapolis — here’s how to help

Action alert: Help enact meaningful SWAT reform in Maryland!

  1. Visit this state web site: SWAT Team Reporting – SB 447. Then click and download the last SWAT statistical report to be issued, FY 2014 SWAT Data Report.(Please do both.) Believe it or not, this matters: police and politicians are claiming no one is interested, so let’s prove them wrong. 
  2. Call these four House Judiciary committee members now–and again first thing on Monday when office staff will have to take your call– and tell them you want meaningful SWAT reform via Delegate David Moon’s bill HB0739, meaning uniform training and deployment standards and data collection to prove those standards are working:
    • 301-858-3052, Kathleen Dumais (Vice chair; Montg.County, D15)
    • 301-858-3488, Joseph Vallario (Chair; P.G. County, D23B)
    • 410-841-3291, Curt Anderson (Deputy Majority Whip; Baltimore, D43)
    •  301-858-3380, Pam Queen (Montg. County, D14 — the third Montg.County member of the committee besides Dumais and Moon)
  3. Email bill sponsors Delegate David Moon and Senator Will Smith with a message of appreciation for their work on HB0739 and SB0941, the crossfiled bills that could make Maryland a leader again in reining in the rampant overuse of SWAT teams.
SWAT team. (Via

SWAT team. (Via “Will the Growing Militarization of Our Police Doom Community Policing?, cops.usdoj.gov, Community Policing Dispatch)

Background

I went to Annapolis on Tuesday to participate in the Judiciary Committee hearing for HB0739 (fiscal note) — a bill sponsored by Delegate David Moon that, in its current form, calls for…

  1. development of standards about training and deployment of SWAT teams by the Maryland Police Training and Standards Commission (MPTSC), and…
  2. data collection about SWAT team deployments by every police department on the frequency, location, reasons or warrants for SWAT team deployments, and outcomes of those deployments including arrests, injuries or deaths, property seizures, forcible entries and weapons discharges as well as the age, gender, and race of persons encountered, and the reporting of these data by the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention (GOCCP).

The data collection half of the bill would simply return the state to its leadership years of 2010-2014 when Maryland collected just such data, prompted by a notorious botched SWAT raid of a house belonging to the mayor of Berwyn Heights, Maryland, resulting in him kneeling in his boxers next to his two dead dogs and terrified mother-in-law.

It’s hard to know where to start with a critique of the SWAT culture permeating our country’s and state’s police forces. Maybe here: we were getting along just just fine without any SWAT teams whatsoever, until the 1965 Watts riots prompted LA Police Chief Darryl Gates not to, say, rethink police practices, but to double down with counterinsurgency warfare tactics being honed in the Vietnam War.*

Our nation’s police forces have been at war with us — well, mainly with some of us — ever since. As the ACLU’s fine 2014 report and police department survey “War Comes Home” showed , about 5 out of every 7 persons of known race** affected by a SWAT raid were persons of color. Moreover, over two thirds (68 percent) of those deployments were merely for drug searches — not hostage situations or barricaded bad guys. Only about one third (38 percent) were mere drug searches when white people were impacted.

Prepared with those facts, and knowing that this year’s bill was essentially a carbon copy of last year’s version, HB521, that passed out of committee by a 15-4 margin, I was hopeful that the hearing would go well. But when I arrived in Annapolis, Delegate Moon warned it might not, and that it was the reporting requirements that might not survive the committee’s deliberations.

The hearing

House Judiciary Committee hearing room, Annapolis

The full hearing that day had a total of 16 bills to hear testimony about — and as bad luck would have it, HB739 would turn out to be the 15th to be considered.  So despite beginning at 1pm, it wasn’t until around 10pm(!) that I could finally join Delegate Moon, Maryland Libertarian Party’s Eric Blitz, and ACLU Maryland’s Toni Holness at the panelist table to testify for HB739. Video of our part of the hearing can be seen here. Copies of both my own written testimony and that of Takoma Park resident, TPMobilization supporter… and ex-New York State prosecutor Eli Koppel are embedded at the end of this post.

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Muslim Community Center Town Hall speakers report on #MuslimBan executive order, offer toolkit to resist

Khaled Beydoun (l.), Abed Ayoub (r.), American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, field questions from MCC audience.

An emergency town hall convened at the Muslim Community Center this Sunday at noon gave two speakers — Abed Ayoub of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), and Khaled Bhartoum, a law professor at  University of Detroit Mercy School of Law — a chance to explain the details of the outrageous anti-Muslim executive order published on Friday afternoon, and share advice about next steps with the largely American Muslim audience in attendance.

As is well known from the news, the executive order indefinitely barred Syrian refugees from entering the United States, suspended all refugee admissions for 120 days and blocked citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries, refugees or otherwise, from entering the United States for 90 days: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen(New York Times). The ban includes dual nationals who have, e.g., an E.U. passport.

Questions and answers were extensive.  The key advice was that persons without U.S. citizenship and with passports from any of the listed countries should forego travel out of the U.S. in the next 90 days, or risk not being able to return.   Among the other answers:

  • Q: Should legal permanent residents (LPRs, a.k.a. “green card” holders) apply for citizenship?
    A: Yes – but not without advice from counsel, especially if they have even minor blemishes on their record.
  • Q: How can non-Muslim allies help?
    A: Support ADC and CAIR and other Muslim advocacy groups financially; visit Muslim Student Associations and other Muslim organizations and congregations, especially where they may feel isolated; and urge Congressmembers to stand against the ban.

Mr. Beydoun also remarked that American Muslims will need to “think of ourselves in very broad terms” and reach out to and support other communities likely to be targeted next, e.g., Latino and African Americans.

Perhaps the best summary of what Mr. Ayoub and Mr. Bhartoum were saying about the legal situation can be found in the ADC Immigrant and Muslim Ban ToolKit, linked from the ADC web site. The one pageA BREAKDOWN OF THE “MUSLIM BAN” – AN ADVOCACY TOOL FOR IMPACTED COMMUNITIES” is especially important and can be seen here:

Other points made during their discussion and the Q&A:

  • Different airport TSA’s may be interpreting the order differently; also the stays issued by the New York and Virginia judges are differently worded and specific.
  • Legal permanent residents (aka LPRs, aka “green card” holders) from other likely target countries who are overseas should accelerate their returns ‘before he tweets again.’
  • The notorious “religious minority” exception applies ‘only’ to refugee policy, not travel policy.
  • The ACLU win over the weekend (resulting in the New York stay) only got people out of detention here in the U.S. who were en route when the order was given; it did not resolve the limbo overseas travellers are in.

As the speakers explained, there was more that was bad about the executive order than made the headlines. In an executive order that’s ugly to begin with, one of the less noticed yet ugliest features requires the Department of Homeland Security to publish biannual counts of foreign nationals involved in crimes, ‘radicalizations’, material support to ‘terrorism-related’ organization deemed hostile to the U.S., gender-based violence, and ‘honor killings’ — the kind of official “enemy ‘other’ scorecard” last seen in Nazi Germany.

It also requires that entry applicants submit to an interview where their religious views are probed — blatantly discriminatory since ‘religious minorities’ from the listed countries are excluded, and blatantly unconstitutional since the interview questions reported so far amount to a religious test for entry to the U.S. (“How often do you pray?” etc.)  Mr. Beydoun advised sticking to “vague, general statements” to the effect that “the First Amendment guarantees me the right to the free exercise of my religion.” Continue reading

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Activist gets Rockville PD complaint form corrected

John Appiah-Duffell addresses Rockville City Council about police department complaint form issue

John Appiah-Duffell addresses Rockville City Council about police department complaint form issue. Video here.

After reading our report about police department transparency compliance failures in Montgomery County, activist John Appiah-Duffell decided it might as well be him to challenge the City of Rockville about its police department’s own failure.  The Rockville PD had not got a key fact on its brutality complaint form right: they listed the deadline to file as 90 days, when the correct deadline is 366 day.

So on Monday evening, that’s what he did.  Here are some excerpts from his brief comments, which can be read in full here:

If you venture down the rabbit hole of the “general orders” section of the Rockville police department website, you will find that the correct timeframe of 366 days is listed. However, the actual form required to file a complaint, which is offered for download on the “Forms and Requests” page, contains the following instruction—and I’ll hand copies out to you in a moment—“If you are filing a brutality complaint, state law requires that your complaint MUST be sworn to and filed within 90 days of the alleged incident.” This is not only false, but even if unintentional, it is an illegal deterrent to complaints, and it needs to be corrected. The transparency law went into effect on October 1 of last year–114 days ago. It is conceivable that someone sought to exercise their legal right of complaint in the past 114 days and was given the false impression that their complaint was invalid. […]

I just want to say that accountability and oversight are good things. They are not a sign of mistrust, but on the contrary, are an essential part of ensuring the public’s trust is earned. Again, this is current state law, and I just ask that my mayor and council exercise their responsibility of oversight to ensure the Rockville Police department is in compliance with the law. Thank you so much for your time.

Both councilmembers and (later) the police chief thanked him for his comments, and, more to the point, the form has now been corrected.

The police chief explained that while paper copies of the form were correct, the change had not been made to the online version of the form. Mr. Appiah-Duffell also relayed the news that Rockville PD in fact has no bargaining agreement — so there’s nothing to report.  We will correct both items, and will also check whether this is the case for Chevy Chase, Gaithersburg, and other cities where we failed to find a posted agreement.

Thank you John!!!  And great work!!! This was fine activism and an excellent public comment — succinct, well-researched, reasonable, respectful — but utterly insistent.  We hope other citizens of Montgomery County and P.G. County will take a page from John and challenge their own city councils and police departments when they’ve fallen short.  You might well be pleasantly surprised how much your comments will matter.

 

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BORDC/DDF, MCCRC oppose announced anti-BDS legislation on 1st, 14th Amendment grounds, circulate open letter to MD General Assembly

mdstatehouse
The Bill of Rights Defense Committee/Defending Dissent Foundation (BORDC/DDF) and the Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition sent the letter below to all members of the Maryland General Assembly yesterday. It concerns reported plans by some of those members to legislate against the “Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions” of Israel (BDS) movement in Maryland.  From the letter:

We recognize that the co-sponsors of the forthcoming bill feel passionately about their opposition to BDS, and that the First Amendment protects those views no less than it protects the views of those who support BDS. The First Amendment, however, prohibits one side of a contentious debate on a matter of great public interest from using the legislative process to silence the other.


(Circulated to all Senator and Delegate email addresses listed at the Maryland General Assembly web site)

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Many MoCo, PG police departments fail to comply with complaint process, transparency reforms

Our review of Montgomery County and Prince George’s County police department web sites has found widespread noncompliance with state transparency requirements, and ongoing, outright misstatements of key reforms of the police brutality complaint process — particularly of the new 366 day deadline for filing such a complaint.

While other elements of last year’s state police reform bill got more attention, it had very important transparency provisions as well.  The state legislature required that Maryland police departments should publicly post to the Internet:

  1. all bargaining agreements (Maryland Public Safety law 3-515)
  2. all department policies (PS 3-515)
  3. a public complaint process (PS 3-515), and
  4. [eventually] a detailed description of the department’s community policing program (PS 3-517)*

Elements of a correctly described and administered complaint process should include :

  1. 366 days from the date of a brutality incident to file a complaint (not 90) (PS 3-104)
  2. sworn statement (not notarized) (PS 3-104)
  3. persons with standing to file a complaint include family members, parents of minors who suffered the brutality, and persons present at the incident or in possession of unaltered (to the best of their knowledge) video of the incident. (PS 3-104)
  4. [eventually] assurance that the complainant would be informed of the final disposition of the complainant’s complaint and any discipline imposed as a result  (PS 3-207) *

We’ve undertaken a survey of all local police departments in Montgomery County and most in P.G. County, and are concerned to report that many of them appear to be failing to comply with these requirements or accurately describe complaint process law.  A table below summarizes the findings — with links to supporting web pages when a department has posted at least partly compliant materials.


[Y=Yes, the item is posted or answered correctly. Y=…and linked from the table. n=No. -Blank-= Not applicable or not answered.  “Score” is discussed below.]

Why is this important?
Well, for one thing, we think police departments ought to be setting a good example in obeying state law.  More to the point, these are not frivolous transparency requirements — or especially onerous ones — so it’s concerning when police departments drag their feet to comply.  One by one:

  • Complaint processes that are generously deadlined, easy to find and understand, yet hard to abuse (sworn statement) seem self-evidently important and self-evidently important to get right.*  For police departments like Rockville PD or Prince George’s County PD to still be listing 90 day deadlines (1, 2) — when the true deadline of 366 days went into effect over 100 days ago (10/1/16) — is an illegal deterrent to complaints, and one that many other police departments avoided.  Each of those 100+ (112 to be exact) days was potentially one when someone gave up on a complaint process who didn’t need to.

    Rockville PD complaint form, 1/17/2016 - wrong since 10/1/2016.

    Rockville PD complaint form excerpt (archived 1/19/2016) – wrong since 10/1/2016, when state police reform law reset the deadline to 366 days.

  • Police department policies (often called “general orders”) itemize each department’s more or less unique set of internal protocols about issues ranging from uniforms and employee wellness to use of force and profiling.   Some cases (Fairmount Heights, Colmar Manor PD) clearly involve very small police departments with limited resources.  But other police departments with more advanced websites (e.g., Hyattsville PD, Upper Marlboro PD) have posted promises to supply their general orders in the near future.  That’s fine — but there was plenty of advance notice, the reform bill was signed in May, 2016.Some cases of “compliance” should also be put in quotes.  PG County Police PD stands out: it does supply a large, multi-volume General Orders manual — but lists some orders as “REDACTED” even in their titles in the first volume, so the public has no idea what’s at stake — just that it won’t be reading anything about it. While this is permitted by the statute when publishing “would jeopardize operations or create a risk to public or officer safety,” it’s hard to believe everything about, e.g., PGCPD General Orders 42, 43, and 44 is so hush-hush we can’t see any of their contents, not even the title.
  • Bargaining agreements between police unions and their employing governments are not “just” about wages, overtime, pensions, time off and so on, as important as those are.  They can also cover issues like how long “derogatory information” remains on the record,  internal affairs procedures — issues that the public has a legitimate interest in. Without access to them, police reform advocates are ‘flying blind’ — and with them, some arguments by *management* may disappear as it becomes clear that a given bargaining agreement isn’t necessarily the root cause of resistance to change.  We hope the Chevy Chase Village, Rockville, and Gaithersburg police departments quickly correct their web sites and supply these texts.  [Correction, 1/26/17: these police departments don’t have bargaining agreements with their cities, so there is nothing to list.]

  • Community policing transparency can be a very worthwhile contract between a police department and its community.  However, that awaits a standard definition of community policing  — and that in turn awaits all but glacial progress of the newly formed “Police Training and Standards Commission.”  Authorized as of October 1, there have been a grand total of two meetings.  Part of the problem still has an Annapolis address.

Hall of Fame
Having called out a few police departments, it’s only right to praise the good ones.  The Bowie Police Department got every current transparency requirement right.  Well done! The Takoma Park Police Department also looks great – overlooking for a moment that we helped them correct their complaint policy errors about a week ago; they would have had a -2 score otherwise.

But what’s particularly great about both departments’ transparency compliance is that
(a) they cared — the TPPD fixed the problems we pointed out all but instantly — and
(b) they proved it can be done.

Caveats and comments Continue reading

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Legislative forum Q&A gets answers on SWAT, trial boards, profiling, immigration enforcement, surveillance

A legislative forum hosted by Progressive Neighbors last Sunday, January 8, at Silver Spring Civic Center yielded insights into state and county civil rights and civil liberties issues during audience questions.

SWAT reporting, civilian trial board participation
Thomas Nephew (MCCRC) directed his question to Senator Will Smith, asking about (1) his thinking on reintroducing a SWAT team reporting bill Smith introduced as a delegate last year, and (2) whether the Senator was open to pursuing “Section 1”, legislatively created trial boards with voting civilian participation, via a Montgomery County Maryland delegation vote.

Senator Smith explained (1:23) that after passing the house his bill last year stalled in the Senate, in the very Judicial Proceedings Committee he’s joined this year.   Motivated in part by the apparent disproportionate deployment or SWAT team deployments in communities of color, the bill would have required police departments to report data about warrant, outcomes, and other data for each deployment.  Pointing to Delegate Moon, Smith said, “… we’ll be talking about stuff we’ll be working together on, maybe this is something he’ll be interested in.”   He added, “I’m going to work as hard as I can on the Senate side, but it came out of the House last time.” 

Regarding civilian trial board participation (2:58), Senator Smith called it a “critical piece of police reform.  […] The major point of contention wasn’t along party lines, it was really along whether you would open up something that had been collectively bargained for  … in the (what I view as) superseding interest of public safety, meaning that you’d have more civilians part of a review process when police officers get into some sort of trouble.”  But while civilians were added, “it isn’t enough, and we haven’t added enough civilians, and it isn’t strong enough.”  Smith concluded, “To answer your question very succinctly, yes, I would support that, I’m sure most of us from Montgomery County would support that, but that’s a delicate balance, it’s not along partisan… lines, you’ve got labor and folks that are interested in police reform on opposite sides here.  I think there’s a middle ground but I do think this piece, civilian review, is critical and something I’m looking forward to support.”

Profiling, immigrant enforcement, surveillance
Jenny K. wanted to know what actions we might be “…taking affirmatively at the state level to ensure that over the next four years the Muslim American community are being guaranteed their civil liberties and civil rights, not just from things like hate crimes… but also government actions…  from surveillance… from registries, from deportation….  I know a lot of this stuff happens at the federal level, but if there are actions that can be taken at the state level to affirmatively declare that the state of Maryland will not cooperate with these efforts, I would like to hear what your ideas are and what your plans are.”

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Jeff Sessions Would Be a Disastrous Attorney General

Jeff Sessions smirking

Photo Courtesy Gage Skidmore

MCCRC joins with a broad coalition of civil rights and civil liberties organizations in opposing the nomination of Jeff Sessions to be Attorney General. As AG, he will be our nation’s top law enforcement official responsible for protecting the Constitutional rights of every person in the US. But he has spent his career undermining the rights of people of color, women, LGBTQ people, immigrants, religious minorities, and people with disabilities. And he’s no friend of civil liberties either.

Please contact Senators Cardin and Van Hollen and tell them to staunchly oppose the nomination of Jeff Sessions to be Attorney General.

It’s essential that even Senators whom we believe will vote against this nominee hear from their constituents, so please call this toll free number: 877-959-6082

The above phone number is sponsored by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and will ask for your zip code, you will be connected with your Senator’s office. You can simply tell the person who answers that you are constituent and you want your Senator to oppose the nomination of Jeff Sessions to be Attorney General.

Senator Sessions’ record on civil rights and civil liberties is deplorable. Here are just a few examples:

Surveillance: Sessions has been a leading proponent of expanding the government’s surveillance of ordinary Americans at the expense civil rights and civil liberties. He has defended the USA PATRIOT Act, calling it a “restrained piece of legislation,” and recently voted to expand it to grant the FBI even more power to access our personal information without a warrant. He has spent his 20-year career in the Senate arguing for broad, often unchecked surveillance powers in intelligence investigations, even though those investigations pose unnecessarily invasive risks to privacy. 

Torture: Sessions has consistently failed to oppose torture. He was one of only nine members of the US Senate to vote against a 2005 amendment barring cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of detainees in US custody. In 2015, Sessions again voted against torture prohibitions when he voted against holding the FBI and the CIA to the same standards of interrogation laid out in the US Army Field Manual (which forbids torture).

Criminal Justice: Sessions continues to embrace a number of antiquated views about criminal justice, and is a vociferous opponent of any criminal justice reform. He loves the death penalty, has voted against reducing the sentences of nonviolent drug offenders, and has continued to support civil asset forfeiture. He is also tight with the private prison industry.

Immigration: Sessions is right in line with Donald Trump on securing the borders, banning Muslims, and keeping Syrian refugees (especially Muslim ones) out of the United States.

Voting Rights:  He called called the Voting Rights Act “intrusive” for seeking to protect eligible minority voters.

Please make two phone calls today, to Senators Cardin and Van Hollen to tell them to oppose Sessions.

Call 877-959-6082

Sources and further reading:

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Police reform fight moves to counties – including ours

Montgomery County Council Building

Montgomery County Council Building

Police reform will be on the local civil rights agenda again this year — but unlike the past two years, the action will be moving from Annapolis to county seats such as Rockville.  That’s because of the passage of a state police reform bill last spring that made some civilian review of police misconduct a possibility – but by no means a foregone conclusion.

The Maryland 2016 legislative session last spring was dominated by police reform, with the Freddie Gray uprising in Baltimore in April 2015 lending urgency to the effort.  Democratic leadership submitted the recommendations of the so-called Maryland Public Safety and Policing Workgroup as the broad but flawed bill numbered HB1016 that police reform advocates in the Maryland Coalition for Justice and Police Accountability* had to work hard to improve.  Thanks in part to MCJPA advocacy — and flaws so obvious even police chiefs and sheriffs had to acknowledge them — a controversial “Recommendation #23” guaranteeing police unions undue influence over administrative trial boards was stripped from the bill, despite last-minute resistance by anti-police reform Democrats like House Judiciary Committee Chairman Joseph Vallario and Delegate Kathleen Dumais.

MCJPA call for civilian voting members on police trial boards

MCJPA call for civilian voting members on police trial boards

The momentum then shifted to including civilians on these trial boards.  Trial boards are the most significant way most police misconduct is likely to be penalized, since criminal convictions are exceedingly rare (as the failure to convict any police of wrongdoing in the Freddie Gray’s death showed).  But trial boards, too, all too rarely hand out significant penalties** — no surprise given they’ve only been composed of police until now.  Meaningful, voting civilian participation is crucial.

The final version of the bill passed last spring was a mixed bag in this respect:

  1. [Good:] Trial board hearings must be open to the public (unless witness or undercover agent safety is at stake).
  2. [Good]: Local jurisdictions are authorized to appoint 2 voting or non-voting civilians to “section 1” trial boards.
  3. [Bad:] But the reform law also provides for an alternative (“section 5”) trial board, developed under the collective bargaining process with the police union, in which trial board members would be appointed by the police chief — and might include no voting civilians at all.  Police union members facing a trial board could choose their preferred kind of board.***

The final two points obviously pose both challenges and opportunities for local civil rights advocates.  Authorizing the possibility of civilian review  was one of many major wins**** in HB1016 for police reform advocates in Maryland — thanks to the long, uphill battle waged by determined activists such as bereaved mother Marion Gray-Hopkins, organizers such as MCJPA’s Larry Stafford and Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle’s Dayvon Love, and lawyers such as the ACLU’s Sara Love and David Rocah.

But to profit from that win in Annapolis, it must be implemented county by county, with county legislation authorizing civilian participation in “section 1” trial boards.

It’s our job to demand that happens in Rockville.  Even when we succeed, citizens will have to remain vigilant to prevent a much weaker “section 5” trial board alternative from being negotiated during collective bargaining.  But first we have to get the strongest possible trial boards — ones with voting civilian participation — authorized by our county council.

=====
* MCCRC is one member of the Maryland Coalition for Justice and Police Accountability; the coalition included 32BJ SEIU, 1199 SEIU, African American Democratic Club of Montgomery County, American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, NAACP, Amnesty International USA, Hollaback! Baltimore, Beats, Rhymes, and Relief, Black Church Center for Justice and Equality, CASA, City Bloc, Color of Change, Communities United, Council on American Islamic Relations, Empowerment Temple, Freddie Gray Project, Jews United for Justice, Justice League, Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, Making Change, Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition, Montgomery County Young Democrats, Power Inside, Prince George’s People’s Coalition, Progressive Maryland, Showing Up for Racial Justice, Universal Zulu Nation, UUs for Liberation from Racism, and more.
** Data are hard to come by, but one study of 1995-1997 trial board results suggests only about 1 in 3 cases result in suspension or dismissal; see the first footnote to this MCCRC blog post.
*** 3-107.(c)(3)(II): “If authorized by local law, a hearing board formed under paragraph (1) of this subsection may include up to two voting or nonvoting members of the public who have received training administered by the Maryland Police Training and Standards Commission on the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights and matters relating to police procedures…” The collective bargaining alternative is authorized in subsequent section (5) of 3-107.(c), using essentially identical language except that the police chief is the sole appointer of trial board members, including any civilian ones. While turning over all trial board appointments to the police chief is in itself less accountable than appointing some by the county, the main point is that no matter what the “local law section 1” trial board composition is, the all but certain “collective bargaining section 5” alternative negotiated by police unions could again feature only up to 2 (e.g., zero) voting or non-voting civilians.
**** The omnibus police reform bill had many other provisions to improve police-community relations and increase the odds of police accountability, including longer periods to file complaints, shorter periods for police to delay testimony, expanded data collection, transparent reporting of policies and collective bargaining agreements, and whistleblower protections.  A summary based on one shared by Kim Propeack (CASA) can be viewed here.

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Takoma Park Welcoming Committee explores local rental housing interest for refugees

Takoma Park Community Center

Takoma Park Community Center

The “Takoma Park Welcoming Committee” is a volunteer-led response to a Takoma Park city council resolution endorsing refugee settlement in November 2015.  It has been meeting monthly at the Takoma Park Community Center to explore ways to assist resettlement of refugees to the Takoma Park area.

In a message co-signed by Councilman Terry Seamens and committee member Shruti Bhatnagar, the group is now calling for interested individuals in Takoma Park to let the committee know they’re interested in housing Syrian refugees as tenants:

“Takoma Park welcoming committee for Syrian families” has been actively working since November 2015 to support resettlement of Syrian families in Takoma Park. We are working with resettlement agencies to meet this goal. Our top priority is to identify safe and affordable homes for new families in our wonderful neighborhood of Takoma Park.

If you are a home owner and interested in supporting this effort by offering your home / part of your home as a rental property, please review the federal requirements listed below to ensure that it meets the required criteria so housing is safe, sanitary and in good repair.

The full text of the flyer is embedded below, or can be downloaded here. As indicated in the flyer, if you live in Takoma Park and are interested, contact Councilman Seamens or Ms. Bhatnagar at TerryS@takomaparkmd.gov and Shruti_bhatnagar@yahoo.com, respectively.

We at MCCRC are proud to continue to help with this grassroots effort to ensure that refugees are welcome in Takoma Park and the county.

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[UPDATED: NSEERS is dead!] Report your phone calls to Congress about ending NSEERS here

U.S. Capitol[UPDATE, 12/22/16: CNN reports “Obama administration ending program once used to track mostly Arab and Muslim men: “President Barack Obama’s administration said Thursday it was ending a dormant program that once was used to track mostly Arab and Muslim men.”The Department of Homeland Security is removing outdated regulations pertaining to the National Security Entry-Exit Registration Systems (NSEERS) program, with an immediate effective date,” said Neema Hakim, a department spokesman.”]

On Saturday, speakers at the “Registries revived?” forum asked the audience to contact their Members of Congress to directly ask President Obama to end the NSEERS program.  You can read more about that forum here.

It’s helpful to collect information people gather during these phone calls; if you’re willing to share who you called and what you learned, please use the form embedded below.

 

A shortened link for the form itself is http://tinyurl.com/hjdtwst

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