The Harford County Council introduced a bill that would establish a county police accountability board at its meeting Tuesday night.
County police accountability boards are required by the state, as per a state law passed in 2021. According to a Harford County government news release, the board would receive complaints of police misconduct and pass them to law enforcement for investigation.
The county is looking for Harford County residents 21 or older to volunteer for the county’s new board, as well as its administrative charging committee, which will be responsible for reviewing police internal investigations regarding alleged officer misconduct and determining whether an administrative charge is appropriate. Active law enforcement officers, according to the release, aren’t eligible to apply.
The deadline to apply to serve on the accountability board is June 3 and June 10 for the charging committee. Applications are available on the county website.
The county bill will have a public hearing on June 14.
The council also introduced four other new bills Tuesday. One would amend the Harford County Code regarding requirements for accessory structure sizes; one would revise prior bond legislation; and the two other bills, combined, would allow the county to “borrow, on its full faith and credit, and issue and sell its bonds or other evidences of indebtedness” up to about $131.3 million.
Erik Robey, the Harford County Sheriff’s Office’s director of legislative and community affairs, delivered the annual update to the council from the Harford County Traffic Safety Advisory Board, which is chaired by Harford County Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler.
The number of fatalities on Harford County roadways has been down recently, Robey said. The county averaged about 19 fatal crashes per year on county roads from 2015 to 2019. But in 2021, the county saw nine fatalities on its roads; six have been recorded so far in 2022.
He also noted that while 4.5% of Maryland drivers were from Harford County in 2019, the county accounted for only 2.9% of accidents statewide that year.
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However, seat belt usage could be better throughout the county, Robey said. The observed seat belt usage rate was 87.9%, below the state average of about 90%. He said the sheriff’s office will be conducting a traffic operation later this month. Deputies will be stationed at the border between Harford and Baltimore counties to ensure people are wearing their seat belts.
In other council news, council members Andre Johnson and Curtis Beulah addressed County Executive Barry Glassman’s recent veto of a bill calling for a moratorium on new building construction on the Perryman Peninsula. The council failed to vote on whether to override the veto, thus killing the bill. The council also did not mention the bill at that meeting, causing perturbed Perryman residents to storm out of the meeting during public comment.
Johnson apologized for not speaking on the bill, which he had previously spoken in favor of.
“Even if I can’t get anything passed, I can at least be the voice for the people of this county,” Johnson said. “I will not make any excuses for not speaking out last week because … we can all make excuses. … I will just make a charge to you that I will do better because the people of this great county deserve better from their elected officials.”
Beulah, who represents Perryman and introduced the bill, said that the council was informed by outside counsel that the moratorium bill was illegal. He said he was unprepared to speak on the bill at last week’s council meeting.
“I don’t like to shoot from the hip,” Beulah said. “I like to make sure I have all the facts before I speak on something because every word counts.”
Tuesday’s council meeting was the first time in months that Perryman residents did not turn out in force to speak against the proposed Mitchell property warehouse development on the peninsula.