Trial Board Members Being Finalized In Worcester County

SNOW HILL– Worcester County is in the final stages of establishing the new processes mandated by Maryland’s police reform measures.

While Worcester County’s Police Accountability Board (PAB) began meeting last fall, since then officials have been working to fill the two other bodies required by new state laws—the administrative charging committee and the trial board. After filling the charging committee earlier this year, the PAB nominated trial board members at its most recent meeting.

“The Police Accountability Board and Administrative Charging Committee are fully staffed with well-qualified citizen-volunteers,” said Roscoe Leslie, the county attorney. “Both bodies are up and running and fulfilling their state-law mandated responsibilities. The final phase of implementation of the state law is selecting and training volunteers to serve on trial boards if that need arises. The PAB nominated individuals at the last meeting and we’ve begun the process of background checks to be followed by training.”

The Maryland Police Accountability Act of 2021, which replaced the Law Enforcement Officer’s Bill of Rights as the system for police discipline, went into effect last summer. As a result, Worcester County had to set up a police accountability board, a charging committee and a trial board. The accountability board is at the top of a three-tier system and was tasked with appointing members to the charging committee, which will review complaints and investigations of police misconduct when they occur. The trial board will convene if the officer being disciplined doesn’t agree with the discipline recommended by the charging committee.

At the most recent PAB meeting, officials reviewed the complaint process and met with the leaders of local law enforcement agencies. Dr. Mark Bowen, a member of the charging committee, said that when complaints were filed with an agency, they were forwarded to the committee.

“We’re literally getting what the police department received, what actions and investigations the police department may have done on their own, and then they compile that and we take it from there,” he said.

He stressed that the process was very transparent and that once the committee had a complaint, it had 30 days to determine whether the officer should be charged or if the complaint was unfounded.

For cases when discipline is advised, the officer’s agency can hand down the discipline recommended by the committee or can hand down a harsher discipline. If the officer accepts the discipline, the process ends there. If the officer objects, the case gets sent to the trial board.

PAB members said the committee had reviewed three complaints so far. Two were unfounded and in the third case the officer accepted the reprimand recommended.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

Alternative Text

Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.