ROCKVILLE, Md. — Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich said he's reviewed recent data that proves his police department targets Black and Latino drivers more than others. He said the situation illustrates why he and other county leaders are bringing in consultants and forming a new task force to "reimagine public safety."
“I think there is disproportionately, and I think it comes from an underlying bias,” Elrich said. “There's enough out there to indicate just with traffic stops that we have a problem. And I worry about that."
Elrich and other county leaders called for dramatic reforms in policing in Montgomery County, with a focus on stopping disproportionate policing targeting minorities. They also suggested putting a new corps of mental health crisis workers on the front lines to deescalate situations like the confrontation on May 5 between a lone Montgomery County police officer trying to deal with a knife-wielding man who charged at the officer.
In that case, 30-year old Finan Berhe was shot and killed, and body-worn camera footage captured it.
“There are a lot of instances where law enforcement should not be the first on the call,” Raymond Crowel, the country's Health and Human Services director, said. “Our prisons and jails even here in Montgomery County become the default hospital where you can get help if you are arrested and incarcerated. Twenty to thirty percent of the persons who are sent to county corrections facilities have some mental health or substance use disorder, and a disproportionate number of persons of color are included in those incarcerations.”
Elrich said the county needs a "dramatic plan" for reform as soon as possible.
He announced independent consultants will be hired, and a 13-member special commission of independent experts and community members will be appointed by August 1 to “reimagine policing."
The goal is to have a package of reforms to act on by January, Elrich said.