The Prince George's County Council this week endorsed a state Senate bill that would significantly limit the power of the county's human relations commission to call for trial board hearings in cases of alleged police brutality.
The state legislation would supersede county legislation adopted last year authorizing the human relations commission to investigate police actions. The only other agency empowered to do so is the police department itself.
Currently, the human relations commission may initiate police review investigation on its own behalf as well as on behalf of the victim.
The Senate bill, amending the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights, would allow only the victim, a witness or a parent or guardian of a victim of alleged police brutality to file a complaint against a law enforcement officer. Any hearing on a complaint would have to be made before a trial board of other law enforcement officers.
An amendment to the legislation, introduced by Del. Decatur W. Trotter and supporter by the County Council and supported by the County Council would retain some of the investigative powers of the county's human relations commission but would deny the commission the right to call for a trial board hearing that would result in disciplinary action.
Councilman Floyd E. Wilson, a member of the Council's police review committee, said the legislation was "a direct slap in the face against our human relations commission. The police cannot operate as some autonomous body, they have to have a response to the people. This will create a whole lot of animosity, especially in the black community. It will set us back three or four years."
The state legislation would also require policemen under investigation to submit to blood alcohol tests, urine tests and polygraph examination.
The Council also prepared letters to the county school closing task force chairmen and members of the school board which expressed the county's desire to find alternative public and private uses for closed school buildings.
The letters were in response to board of education queries about the intended use of closed schools. The school board will hear reports from the school closing task forces at a meeting about potential school closings today.
Councilman Francis W. White said they would "show that the Council is developing some alternatives, seeking a positive direction for schools, so the school board can say yes and close some schools."
County executive Winfield M. Kelly's reorganization plan abolishing the human resources department will go to public hearing some time within the next 60 days. In a surprise move, the Council attached the reorganization plan to a bill amending the classification plan for Prince George's County workers involved in the reorganization.
Councilman Wilson said "Anyone who wants to comment on the order now has the right to be heard" at the public hearing. Normally executive orders do not go to public hearing but several Council members expressed the need for public feedback on the issue. The executive order would become effective 60 days after submission to the Coucil unless it is disapproved by a majority vote.