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Without much comment, Hyattsville City Council unanimously approved a resolution condemning the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. But it took more discussion for a second resolution to be passed calling on state lawmakers to review regional law enforcement coordination, study the prevalence of extremist views in local law enforcement, and to expand state and local police powers against “domestic terrorism.”
The discussion took place at Hyattsville’s Jan. 19, 2021, City Council meeting. During discussion of the letter to the general assembly, Councilor Bart Lawrence initially balked at the resolution, citing concerns about Council procedure and seeking more clarity about the intent of the measure. Lawrence noted the letter calls on the general assembly to grant increased powers to the Maryland Attorney General and county states attorneys to combat domestic terrorism. But Lawrence criticized the letter for not providing more information about the powers those offices currently have to combat domestic terrorism.
“What sort of powers does the Maryland Attorney General or the states attorneys lack to protect the general public? This is the first concern popping to my mind,” said Lawrence. “How can we assure that additional police powers aren’t turned on traditionally marginalized communities? These are questions I would like to be able to ask.”
Lawrence also critiqued sections of the letter calling for the establishment of a commission to investigate biased or extremist views, wondering how that would be accomplished.
Councilor Joseph Solomon, the primary sponsor of both measures relating to the Capitol siege, said the events of Jan. 6, demand a robust review for local law enforcement in the D.C. area, including Hyattsville, Prince George’s County and Maryland.
“It is appropriate to begin this conversation and to let the state know that the activities that transpired in D.C., they happened there, but there is still work for the state to do to protect us from domestic terror,” said Solomon.
But Solomon’s answer stopped short of specifically addressing Lawrence’s concerns.
“My questions still remain,” said Lawrence. “I am concerned about moving too quickly on something that really deserves deeper consideration.”
In the end, Lawrence’s concerns were not shared by the rest of City Council. He successfully proposed amendments to the measure, however, adding language to the letter calling on lawmakers to ensure additional anti-terror law enforcement powers to not be targeted at marginalized communities that already suffer from a history of “over-policing”. The amended letter was approved by City Council unanimously.