Police oversight bill to combat racially charged shootings


Outside a Montgomery County police station, Montgomery County Councilmember Will Jawando asks for the release of all body camera footage, reviewed use of trespassing citations in the county and the investigation of all officers involved in a recent racial profiling incident. The LETT Act is intended to decrease incidents of racial profiling that authorities skim over. Photo courtesy Michelle Basch.

By Esme Padgett

In an effort to decrease police brutality, the Montgomery County Council unanimously passed the Law Enforcement Trust and Transparency Act May 5. The initiative will require an outside law enforcement agency to investigate any police officer involved in a death.

Last year, County Councilmember Will Jawando submitted the LETT Act to the County Council in response to the police shooting of Silver Spring’s resident Robert White late summer of 2018. Under the bill, investigators must be sworn-in officers with “use of force” experience. In addition, the law enforcement agency must release a public report justifying the investigation conclusion.

“[The LETT Act addresses] the crisis—in this country and this county—of trust and support in police power and police work,” County Councilmember Hans Riemer said. “Our county needs to be part of the solution.”

White was one of 992 people across the country who police officers fatally shot in 2018. A Howard County investigation fully acquitted Montgomery County Police Officer Anand Badgujar, who shot White, under justified use of force. Former State Attorney Dario J. Broccolino revealed few details about the investigation and justification for the decision to the public.

From personal encounters to issues with the police, students like sophomore Satine Diouf recognize the need to address racism in the criminal justice system.

“I had this friend who was telling me that he was just getting a snack out of his friend’s backpack, and the police slapped him to the ground and were like ‘drop your bag and put your hands on your head,” Diouf said. “He got slammed on the ground for something he didn’t do.”

Councilmembers Riemer and Jawando plan to form a civilian oversight board. Here, civilians will review policing policies to improve public safety. They will also work closely with the police force to restore public trust in the system and ensure that people feel safe in the community.

“When I’m walking in the streets, even if I’m cold, I feel pressure to put my hood down,” Diouf said.“I feel like if there’s a hood on [the police are] going to think like I’m some kind of criminal. It’s crazy that you have to feel that way around police officers who are supposed to make you feel safe.”