Montgomery County Council to Meet Tuesday, April 26 to Receive a Briefing on the Memorandum of Understanding Between the Montgomery County Police Department and Montgomery County Public Schools

by Patrick Herron

On Tuesday, the Montgomery County Council will receive a briefing on the memorandum of understanding between the Montgomery County Police Department and MCPS regarding the Community Engagement Officer Program. MCPS Superintendent Dr. Monifa McKnight, BOE President Brenda Wolff, and Montgomery County Police Chief Marcus Jones will be among those in attendance.

Per Montgomery County:
The Council will receive a briefing on the memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the Montgomery County Police Department (MCPD) and Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS). The purpose of the MOU is to establish and improve the Community Engagement Officer Program, define specific duties and responsibilities and establish a working protocol for exchanging information and addressing matters of concern cooperatively. The goal is to maintain and enhance a safe learning environment for all students, staff and the MCPS community.

• Maryland’s Safe to Learn Act of 2018 mandates Counties to ensure “adequate law enforcement coverage at all schools.” MCPS complied with the law through the School Resource Officer program (SROs). After student and community advocacy requesting the modification or end of the SRO program in 2020, the Board of Education launched a workgroup to “explore and benchmark alternative discipline program processes used to handle school-based incidents” in June 2020.
• Since then, multiple workgroups were composed to study this issue and to develop recommendations to improve school climate and the SRO program, including the Student Wellbeing Action Group (SWAG) and RSSSW.
• By the start of the 2021-2022 school year, the new Community Engagement Officer (CEO) program was implemented with a revised MOU between MCPS and local police which included following changes:
o SROs are now called community engagement officers (CEOs). They should not be stationed in school buildings                or on school grounds. School requests for police service will not be made directly to the CEOs.
o MOU recommendations: “A critical incident where policy may (from shall) take the lead in investigating                             depending on the circumstances.”
 Move the following to the section highlighted above: arson, knowingly making false reports about a                                     destructive device, and distribution or manufacture of a controlled drug substance.
 Further review the following prior to moving it to the section highlighted  above: hate crime and gang                               related incident/crime
 Change the following under the section highlighted above:
• “Physical attack on another that requires medical attention outside the health room”: Change to “In the event of a 911 call regarding a physical attack on another that requires medical attention outside the health room.
• “Theft (any single incident or series of incidents committed by the same perpetrator where the value of stolen property is $500 or more)”: Change $500 to $1500.
• Possession of a marijuana: Police will only confiscate the substance
• On November 10, 2021, the E&C and Health & Human Services (HHS) joint Committee held a briefing with RSSSW and SWAG to review each group’s recommendations to improve 1) school curriculum & climate; 2) mental and behavioral health; and 3) restorative justice. The Nov. 10 staff report can be found on ©1.
• The RSSSW workgroup was tasked with completing a comprehensive review of the new MOU for potential additional changes. However, since the implementation of the CEO program recent school safety incidents prompted local leaders to reevaluate the model creating the CEO 2.0 program.
• For the first half of this school year, the Emergency Communications Center (ECC) processed 1,688 school service calls. Of these, 93% were dispatched to CEOs. Approximately 29% of the calls were traffic-related, and 35% of the calls resulted in formal reports. Of the 563 CEO reports, 11 resulted in arrests: five weapons offenses, one armed robbery, two aggravated assaults, one school threat, one ex-parte violation (parent), and one auto theft. And additional 39 students were referred to the State Department of Juvenile Services (DJS) and an additional five resulted in written citations for CDS.
• On February 9, the Education & Culture (E&C) and Public Safety joint Committee held a briefing with MCPS and MCPD on the CEO 2.0 program. The Feb. 9 staff report on ©X also includes a timeline of key local agency actions related to the County’s former Student Resource Officer (SRO) program from 2020 to Feb. 2022. The staff report also summarizes the MOU recommendations from the Student Wellbeing Action Group (SWAG) and school encounter data.
• The CEO 2.0 program and fully revised MOU has not yet been implemented and will be discussed further in this briefing. A copy of the new MOU is attached at © and includes a chart delineating what CEOs will and will not do.
• While the new MOU is very similar to the one in place at the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year, there are some differences to note:
o CEOs may be asked to participate in school-based events such as career days, assemblies, study circles, and                       other staff/student events;
o CEOs will enhance the relationship and level of community engagement with the elementary and middle                         school communities;
o School staff may contact the CEO or CED supervisor directly using the cell phone, except where there is a                          need for a response to an incident. Incident response requests still must go through 911 or the Police Non-                      Emergency number;
o The MCPD CED Director or their designee will collaborate with school leaders to discuss school and                                     community initiatives or concerns;
o MCPS may designate an Administrator, Director, or designee to participate in an advisory capacity in the                          formal interview process. MCPS personnel will not access the position vacancy file or a CEO candidate’s                            personnel file;
o CEOs should also be invited to and encouraged to attend meetings with school-based counselors, social                            workers, and the MCPS Restorative Justice Coach;
o CEOs will have a private, designated office near the Main Office to use, but will not permanently stationed                         there;
o Clarifies certain critical incidents; and
o MCPS will allow CEOs to view available security video footage related to a critical incident.

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