Takoma Park Should De-Police Routine Public Interactions

Takoma Park Mobilization wrote Takoma Park City Manager Suzanne Ludlow on October 27, 2020, asking her to de-police routine public interactions. Here’s our letter —

Dear Ms Ludlow,

We are writing to ask you to transfer City of Takoma Park enforcement functions from the Takoma Park Police Department (TPPD), back to Housing and Community Development (HCD), along with the city’s crossing guards, preferably by the end of this calendar year.

For much of the public, police contact is intimidating and can lead to adverse outcomes, therefore we aim to de-police routine public interactions. There is no good reason the issuance of a property citation or a parking ticket should imply possible entanglement with the criminal justice system, an unfortunate side-effect of TPPD management of the city’s Neighborhood Services Division (NSD).

We think of the June 2, 2020 incident when a Takoma Park police officer, removing a Black Lives Matter flyer from a lamppost, got into a confrontation with a resident, who posted video and wrote, “Was taking a nightly stroll and found a cop taking down pro blacks and throwing them away. This is our problem. Throw these signs up x1000 til there are too many to take down. They will not silence black voices.” Of course, our request is based on thousands of interactions and not just this one incident, and it reflects a movement that transcends Takoma Park city boundaries.

Neighborhood Services Division relocation will not change the city’s public-safety service mix nor involve any budget reallocation. This step will therefore be outside the purview of the new Task Force on Reimagining Public Safety, so it need not wait for the outcome of the city’s Reimagining Public Safety process.

NSD consolidates parking, property-code, and environmental-code enforcement. These are civil and not criminal matters. In fact, the city’s property-code function was managed by HCD until 2016. HCD is also a good fit for environmental-code enforcement and for parking enforcement, which in Baltimore, for example, is handled by the Department of Transportation.

Noting that the Task Force may not deliver recommendations until early June 2021, moving NSD now would deliver a good-faith demonstration of city responsiveness to public concerns about the proper management of enforcement functions. You will show that you understand that routine enforcement belongs under civilian control.

As city manager, you are empowered by the City Charter to make this administrative change at your discretion. We note that when you proposed creating the Neighborhood Services Division just a few years ago, in the spring of 2016, you did not seek prior City Council approval or public comment.

We also ask you to transfer the city’s crossing guards into NSD and out of the police department. AFSCME representation of all affected city employees would not change so moving NSD staff and the crossing guards should have no union implications.

Finally, we ask you to evaluate and initiate steps to move traffic enforcement including the city’s speed camera program out of the TPPD, placing them under civilian management. We recognize that this change involves sworn officers so it should be handled independently of NSD and crossing-guard relocation.

Thank you very much for your consideration.


Takoma Park Mobilization

ACLU of Maryland, Montgomery County Chapter
Jews United for Justice
Montgomery County Democratic Socialists of America
Racial Justice NOW!
Young People for Progress