Baltimore County’s police chief and the president of its Fraternal Order of Police will join community activists for a county-organized virtual panel discussion Tuesday evening.
The discussion, “Baltimore County Dialogs on Race: Community-Police Relations,” is organized by the Baltimore County Office of Diversity and Equity, the Baltimore County Public Library and the Baltimore County Human Relations Commission.
Moderated by Farajii Muhammad, host of “For the Culture with Farajii” on Morgan State University’s WEAA 88.9, the panel discussion will include DeRay Mckesson, a Baltimore City native who helped establish Campaign Zero, a national policy platform to end police violence; Police Chief Melissa Hyatt; Anthony Fugett, president of the Baltimore County branch of the NAACP; FOP president David Rose; and Adam Jackson, chief executive officer of the Baltimore City-based Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, a grassroots think tank and advocacy group focused on advancing the public policy interests of Black Marylanders.
The organizers wanted “to bring people together to have a meaningful conversation, to really critically discuss policing policy, reforms and practices,” said Julie Brophy, manager of Adult & Community Engagement for Baltimore County Public Library. “It’s an opportunity to hear from people both on the activist side and police side.”
“By convening diverse groups of local, state and national thought leaders around these issues, Baltimore County can better engage in collaborative, transparent and effective partnerships with all its communities and stakeholders,” Troy Williams, director of equity and inclusion for the county, said in a statement.
Brophy added that Mckesson, whose early activism in the Black Lives Matter movement and social media popularity thrust him into the national spotlight, can bring a broader perspective to the conversation around policing, complementing Fugett’s and Jackson’s local insights.
“We are looking forward to a productive discussion on eliminating racial disparities in policing and building transformative relationships between police and community,” Williams said.
The Baltimore County library also will host the panel discussion through the video conferencing app Zoom from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., and registration closes an hour before the discussion begins. A link will be emailed to those who have registered 30 minutes prior to the talk.
Muhammad will facilitate panelists’ conversation; panelists also will have a few minutes to speak uninterrupted before the discussion wraps up, Brophy said.
The library also will host a follow-up discussion on Sept. 1 for community members who want to share ideas on improving community and police relations. Registration for the follow-up talk will open Tuesday evening.
The panel discussion comes on the heels of national outcry over the death of Minneapolis man George Floyd, a Black man who died when a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. That now-fired officer has been charged with murder, and three other ex-police officers who witnessed Floyd’s killing have also been charged.
Floyd’s murder, as well as the fatal shooting by police of Breonna Taylor in Louisville and Ahmaud Arbery by three white men in Georgia, “brought the issue of use of force and fatal use of force by police into the national spotlight,” Brophy said.
County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. announced in June a police reform package that included publishing data on use of force and complaints against police, and established a permanent advisory group to look at racial inequities in policing practices.
A police reform bill proposed by County Councilman Julian Jones, a Democrat and the only Black member of the County Council, that would have expanded on Olszewski’s initiative by banning chokeholds, among other measures, was tabled by the County Council in August.
County Councilman David Marks, a Towson Republican, has said he is drafting his own police reform bill. Jones has said he plans to reintroduce parts of his original legislation in piecemeal fashion so council members may vote on specific provisions.
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Members of the state legislature, too, plan to hash out a police reform bill in the next General Assembly session.