On June 11, Robert White was shot dead by a Montgomery County Police officer. He was just walking through his own neighborhood when accosted by the officer. He was unarmed. And Black.
We don’t know the full story of what happened, but we do have a lot of questions.
Over 600 county residents signed on to this letter asking some of those questions, and requesting to meet with Chief Manger, County Executive Leggett, and Councilmember Elrich (Chair of the Public Safety Committee).
The text of the letter is below, a full version of the letter is available here.
Dear Chief Manger, County Executive Leggett, and Councilmember Elrich:
As residents of Montgomery County, Maryland, we are deeply concerned about the shooting of Silver Spring resident, Robert White, by Montgomery County police officer, Anand Badgujar, on Monday, June 11th. We are heartbroken that Mr. White was killed by Officer Badgujar. Some of us are neighbors of Mr. White and knew him as a kind and gentle person who enjoyed taking daily walks around our neighborhoods.
We are also keenly aware that what happened to Mr. White is not an isolated incident. Across the country, Black people, as well as those with mental illnesses or developmental disabilities, face significant and often life-threatening risks in encounters with law enforcement officers. Montgomery County is unique in many ways, but it is by no means an exception to this troubling pattern. This must change.
Law enforcement and county leadership must respond to the concerns voiced by Mr. White’s family, his neighbors and friends in the community, and local activists. We also call upon you to implement systemic reform around MCPD’s practices, protocols, and trainings, particularly as they relate to communities of color, immigrants, people with mental illness, and people with developmental or intellectual disabilities. On behalf of the over 600 people and groups signing this letter, we request a meeting with you to discuss these concerns, detailed below.
On Mr. White and similarly-situated victims of police encounters
*MCPD should release the full, unedited body camera footage and all information surrounding the encounter to Mr. White’s family and counsel.
*MCPD should provide the public with a detailed understanding of any investigations into Officer Anand Badgujar, the timeframe for decision-making, the entities/people tasked with the investigations, and the complete results of the investigations.
*MCPD should develop a compensation fund for innocent victims (and their families) injured or killed in officer-related shootings
On de-escalation tactics and trainings
*How are MCPD officers trained in de-escalation techniques? How many hours of de-escalation training are officers expected to receive, and how often is the training repeated? Does the de-escalation training include information and protocols about how to defuse conflict and tension, particularly when engaging with communities of color or individuals with mental illnesses or developmental disabilities?
*How are MCPD officers trained on interpreting signs of violence and the decision-making process of using force?
*Does MCPD conduct random reviews of body camera footage to assess an officer’s performance and identify patterns of behavior? Is body camera footage of an incident – either a successful encounter or a use of force incident – ever used for broader officer training?
*How does MCPD define justifiable or reasonable use of force?
*What trainings do all MCPD officers receive on non-lethal uses of force to subdue an individual whom they perceive to be combative, or who assaults them? How often do these trainings occur?
*How many complaints has MCPD received over the past 5 years regarding any use of force? How have those complaints been addressed and resolved?
*When police come from other departments, could they potentially be hired even if they have a record of past complaints?
On implicit and systemic racial bias
Black people like Mr. White are more likely to be stopped, frisked, and arrested in this country, and they are more likely to face violence at the hands of police officers than whites are. Black people who have disabilities face a double jeopardy.
*What specific steps does MCPD take to dismantle systemic racial biases embedded within the department’s organizational culture? How does MCPD help dismantle the individual biases that police officers hold?
*How often do trainings occur around implicit bias and systemic racism? When was the last training that occurred? How many police officers go through these trainings each year? Who are the trainers and what are the resources and materials they provide?
*What steps does MCPD take to better understand and engage with the diverse communities in Montgomery County?
*Do MCPD officers receive training around how immigrants may perceive and engage with law enforcement? If so, how often and who is trained? Who provides the trainings?
*Does MCPD track and document interactions between people of color and police officers? How is that data collected, reviewed, shared, and archived?
On mental illness, intellectual and developmental disabilities
* Do MCPD officers receive training on interacting with individuals with mental illness? If yes, how often is the training conducted? Who does the training and what is the curriculum?
*What training do MCPD officers receive in recognizing individuals who may have mental illness, intellectual and developmental disabilities, or other disabilities such as hearing or vision impairment? How often do these trainings occur? Who are the trainers and what are the resources and materials they provide?
*Does MCPD work with the mobile crisis service team in Montgomery County? If so, what are the guidelines for engagement and collaboration, especially when there is an encounter between a police officer and an individual with mental illness or disability? How is the mobile crisis team deployed? Do mobile crisis teams always respond with law enforcement personnel, or can they be deployed without law enforcement?
*Are the police automatically notified when people call 911 or the Montgomery County Mobile Crisis Hotline? Who makes the decision on whether to send the police out? What protocols exist to guide those decisions?
*Do MCPD officers receive Crisis Intervention Training? Do MCPD policies require CIT-trained officers to be dispatched when an officer makes a call for backup?
Thank you for your attention to our concerns. We request an in-person meeting with law enforcement and county leadership as soon as possible to discuss our concerns and questions. Please contact Katie Stauss or Laurel Hoa to set up a meeting over the next week. We remain committed to cultivating communities of inclusion and safety in Montgomery County.