DUNDALK — Baltimore County Executive John Olszewski, Jr. chose Dundalk native Crystal Francis to be one of the members on his newly issued Baltimore County Workgroup on Equitable Policing.
Olszewski created the group to examine policing policies and practices, as well as to make recommendations for guaranteed equitable policing throughout the county.
In 2018, after examining the Baltimore County Police Department’s citation records, the Maryland Statistical Analysis Center (MSAC) reported that African-American people were issued citations during traffic stops at a higher rate than those of other racial makeups.
Although the data doesn’t necessarily portend policing bias or racial discrimination, Olszewski and Police Chief Melissa Hyatt said the data could use examination.
“We are taking steps to provide a closer look at our data, promote fairness, improve accountability, and build a safer, stronger county,” Olszweski said.
“Our law enforcement officers work tirelessly day in and day out to keep our communities safe, and I am grateful for their dedicated service. We also have a moral obligation to ensure accountable, equitable, and just law enforcement that serves all residents.”
This work group is an opportunity to increase communication and transparency in Baltimore County, according to Hyatt.
“Every day and every night our officers are out in our communities patrolling in an effort to keep everyone safe,” Hyatt said.
“We owe it to the members of our community to ensure that we are utilizing our resources in the most effective way. I look forward to being a part of this important discussion.”
As the Executive Officer for the Maryland Alliance for Justice Reform, Francis said she was “honored” to participate in what she believes is an important workgroup.
“I appreciate the County Executive for keeping his promise to create a more open and transparent government,” Francis said.
“The workgroup has an opportunity to conduct root cause analysis, which could potentially lead to determining whether or not policies, practices, traditions, or other circumstances are resulting in the disproportionate number of police stops impacting African Americans in Baltimore County and resolving such if found to have statistical significance.”
In February, Francis was chosen earlier this year for another of Olszewski’s workgroups and was instrumental in choosing Hyatt as police chief.
Ultimately, Francis said she would like to see confidence restored among residents, ethical and effective community policing practices are taking place, an effective system of accountability and improved training in topics such as unconscious bias and cultural competency are occurring in Baltimore County.
The newly announced workgroup has an ambitious agenda of: reviewing and analyzing data; reviewing current written orders and manuals relevant to traffic and person stops; meeting with command staff and officers in the police department to examine current policing practices and principles and how they may be influencing the data; reviewing training and supervision that police officers receive with respect to implicit bias in policing; and reviewing national best practices with respect to equitable policing.
Baltimore County Councilman Julian E. Jones (D, 4th District) thinks Olszewski is doing a “good thing” by implementing equitable policing.
“Nobody is saying that our police are doing anything but a great job,” he said. “But at the same time, at our level we see things that the average patrol officer may not. It’s incumbent upon us to analyze and do statistical research needed, so we can make sure that we’re treating everyone fairly and that there is no bias in how we operate.”
The Baltimore County Workgroup on Equitable Policing plans to host two public input sessions to receive public comment.
Dates and times for these public input sessions will be released in the near future.