Police union sues Montgomery County over use of force policy

Montgomery County police are suing local lawmakers over a new use of force policy approved last year in the wake of George Floyd's death.

The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 35 claims it was left out of talks regarding the policy, which would be against the county charter.

Montgomery County approved the new use of force policy in July 2020. 

Montgomery County Member At-Large Will Jawando was a lead sponsor of the bill. He denies the officers' claims that they were left out of negotiations that led to the new policy.

"The fact that you have the union suing when they knew about this bill and had been involved in the conversations is really disappointing, and shows how out of touch they are with the moment we’re in," Jawando said.

The use of force policy adds limits and conditions on certain actions officers may take. This includes no chokeholds, as well as restrictions on "no-knock warrants" and the use of deadly force against someone running away as well as shooting from or at a moving vehicle.

"Is change hard? Absolutely, but is change required? Absolutely," Jawando said.

The lawsuit claims the the county is going against public policy by not allowing officers to negotiate the standards regarding use of force. 

The officers write: "It is public policy… that police employees have the opportunity to bargain collectively over wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment through a representative of their choice or to refrain therefrom; and that any collective bargaining between the county government and a representative of those police employees be done in good faith with no interference with the orderly process of government and furthermore, that agreements reached through collective bargaining be implemented."

The police union is also arguing that: "These minimum standards present a significant risk to the health and safety of members of the FOP by prohibiting uses of force that may be necessary for an officer to employ to protect themselves from a violent suspect."

FOX 5’s Sierra Fox asked Jawando if he agrees with the police union that this policy puts officers' health and safety at risk. Here’s his response:

"No, I wouldn’t put forward a bill that would do that," Jawando said. "Absolutely don’t agree. Officers can and will still use the force required to keep themselves safe, but also to keep residents safe and that is what this is about."

Jawando believes it is important to have limits on what officers can and cannot do to save lives.

"There’s a lot of tools in the toolbox before you get to deadly force. And unfortunately, what we see is force is used against people of color disproportionately and that’s what’s leading to this erosion of trust and inhibits the police’s ability to do their job and doesn’t cause all residents to feel equally protected," said Jawando.

Montgomery County Police said they can’t comment on pending litigation.

FOX 5 is still waiting for a response from the police union and Montgomery County.

You can read the full lawsuit here: