City council establishes citizens public safety advisory committee

October 5, 2015

Photo courtesy T. Carter Ross.

BY REBECCA BENNETT — At the Sept. 21 Hyattsville City Council meeting, the council voted 8 to 2 to establish the Hyattsville Police and Public Safety Citizens Advisory Committee.

“It’s an opportunity for us to engage our community in a way that we haven’t in the past,” Councilmember Joseph Solomon (Ward 5) said, who submitted the motion to form the committee.

According to the committee worksheet (viewable starting on page 160 of the Sept. 21 council packet), some of the committee’s roles include advising and making recommendations to the city council on public safety issues, on community public safety education, and on public safety best practices in the city.

Several council members thought the committee scope could be narrowed down to scope #6, which said the committee shall “advise council and make recommendations on issues related to public safety throughout the city.”

“I think the importance of this committee is enough that I’d rather not wait until we get the actual perfect foundational documents,” Councilmember Shani Warner (Ward 2) said.  “I’d like to move forward and see what this committee is able to do.”

Councilmember Patrick Paschall (Ward 3) said he liked the longer list of scope items for the committee.  “It gives direction to the committee itself on the kinds of things they can undertake and should undertake as a part of the committee,” he said.

“Scope #1-5 don’t really function like an advisory committee,” Council Vice President Bart Lawrence (Ward 1) said. “We are asking them to do things. … We are asking them to coordinate regular reporting and presentations.”

Paschall said the committee is an opportunity for the city to hear from residents that it just needs to be safer, but ideas about what would make parts of the city feel safer. “I feel that there is a deep need for this, especially right now,” he said. “I think that any police department should have engagement and advice from civilian, non-police residents.  It is through that process that police are actually accountable to the residents that they serve.”

“I think it’s very important that the police be involved when the items for discussion are police-related,” City Administrator Tracey Nicholson said.  Public safety, she said, is more than just police, but includes issues such as lighting, parks, fire department response times, etc.

Warner said she was concerned about the committee being required to meet eight times per year, at least once in each of the five wards.  “I think that’s a lovely idea, but it may prove to be a practical obstacle,” she said.

Solomon said he wanted this committee to be something that tried to meet across the city.