MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. — Nearly three months after Montgomery County Police released body camera footage of a confrontation between officers and a 5-year-old East Silver Spring student, Montgomery County Council President Tom Hucker is pushing for a bill that aims to prevent similar situations from happening in the future.
The incident happened in January 2020, but Montgomery County Council President said the council wasn't made aware until more than a year later.
“We didn't find out about this until 14 months after the fact,” Hucker said. “So of course we have to wonder, how often this may have happened in the past, and whether it will happen again in the in the future and we wouldn't find out.”
Throughout the 51-minute video, officers can be seen screaming in a 5-year-old East Silver Spring Elementary School student’s face, advocating for people "beating their children", and briefly handcuffing the boy.
The boy had allegedly wandered away from his school and didn’t want to return. Rather than turn the boy over to the school staff, police continued inside the school's premises with the school staff and the student.
Hucker introduced the bill in May, which's up for discussion this week, that would require the Montgomery County Police Department’s internal affairs division to notify the Police Chief immediately about any investigations involving children, discrimination, use of force, and other serious matters immediately.
The proposed bill would then require the chief to notify the County Executive and County Council within 24 hours.
Another requirement of the drafted bill is the Police Chief would be required to inform the State's Attorney’s Office within seven days of becoming aware of a potential criminal offense by a Department employee.
The police department would also be required to provide certain investigative files and body-worn camera recordings to the County Executive and County Council within seven days if it's requested.
“The main thing is we got to make sure we know what our officers are doing out there, and then if they're doing anything wrong, it's brought to our attention right away,” Hucker said.
“Accountability and ultimately public confidence in our police," Hucker said the bill aims to do. "It's not good for the police at all if the public is concerned about them and worries that they're out harming children.”
Hucker said in the East Silver Spring Elementary School incident he believes the police chief didn’t know about the incident until about four months after it happened.
“And then when he found out he didn't share with the County Executive, the Council or the State's Attorney,” Hucker said.
Hucker said at that point the statute of limitations for a misdemeanor, such as possible assault, was twelve months. Hucker said the State’s Attorney didn’t learn about the incident until 14 months after the incident.
“He said that has happened numerous times in the past, where he learned about police misconduct, over a year after it happened,” Hucker said of the State’s Attorney. “So this bill will bring those kinds of incidents to his attention right away, and then he can decide whether to bring charges or not.”
Hucker said accountability and ultimately public confidence in the police are the goals for the bill, and to close a loophole in body camera footage policies.
“We spend a lot of money on our police, we have a good police force, but they need to be transparent, they need to be professional, they need to act with compassion, and only if they're doing that are we going to have public confidence in our police force which is what people want and it's what the police force wants,” Hucker said.
Council will have a public hearing on the bill on June 22, 2021.
You can read the bill HERE.