Tuesday, February 10, 2015

In The Absence of Crisis - Community Policing in Howard County

Despite being a small jurisdiction relative to our neighbors to the northeast and southwest, good policy often starts in Howard County.  Admittedly, bad policy often dies here too, but the County has been on the forefront of public health, civil rights, and environmental initiatives for at least the last ten years.  A lot of that can be attributed to our elected officials, but I think they bring these ideas forward knowing that the public is not likely to be mired down in the conflicts that frustrate new ideas in their early stages.

The County Council is stepping forward again with their Community Policing Bill, CR16-2015, sponsored by Calvin Ball, Mary Kay Sigaty, Jen Terrasa, and Jon Weinstein.  While the author may disagree with me, I think the bill can be summarized by the following paragraph:
WHEREAS, in the absence of crisis, it is prudent to consider opportunities to focus on strengthening relationships between police and the community to improve public safety, including enhancements to police presence in the community; to the equipment and resources available to law enforcement officials, including new uses for technology such as body cameras; and [the] adoption of best practices in law enforcement; 
 This bill is not brought in response to the tragedies of Ferguson, Cleveland, and New York, but rather "in the context of" these events.  "In the absence of crisis, it is prudent to consider opportunities..."  (Good advice for us all).

We have a great police force in Howard County.  They are continually open to dialogue on emotionally charged issues, respectful, good at their jobs, and dedicated to the community, as displayed by their repeat participation in community events.  And I think it is fair to presume that four Council-members endorsed by the Howard County Police Officers Association would not have brought forward a bill like this before consulting with leaders in the police community.  Because the fact of the matter is this - police simultaneously represent the most compassionate, protective, and caring face of government while also being an extension of potential, defensive, and government-endorsed violence.

This bill is intended to create a "Committee on Community Policing" that will evaluate current policies and new opportunities to improve.  On the latter point, this Committee will evaluate the benefits of additional training and body cameras.  Surely, there are only two references to body cameras in the bill, but it is a clear and apparent focus of the legislation.  While jurisdictions like Baltimore do not have the opportunity to consider such technology "in the absence of crisis", Howard County does.

That's all for today.  Have a great Tuesday doing what you love!