With a continued search for a new police chief and discussions on police reform, Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks wants to ensure residents have some input in the process.
A survey will be released soon that will provide residents up to 30 days to respond.
“We want the public to make sure you go in and take part of that survey,” Alsobrooks said. “It is our intention to touch every part of our community as we go through this … and the process transparent.”
During a July 9 press conference, in Landover, she announced the addition of two more people on a police reform task force: Bob Ross, president of the county’s NAACP branch, and Llamilet Gutierrez, executive director of the Amara Legal Center in northwest D.C. Gutierrez also served as a county public defender.
Alsobrooks established the task force with nearly two dozen members, chaired by Circuit Court judge Maureen Lamasney and Del. Alonzo Washington (D-District 22) of Greenbelt, to review police department strategies, hiring and use of force policies.
The group of legal, law enforcement and government officials and community leaders was established after a scathing 94-page report revealed white county police officers allegedly used racial slurs and retaliatory methods against fellow Black and Latino officers.
The document highlights more than two dozen incidents of white officers who allegedly used racial slurs about officers and residents, white officers not disciplined for various incidents and Black and Latino officers transferred to other officers for speaking out against unjust behavior.
Hours after the report’s June 18 release, police Chief Hank Stawinski resigned.
The next day, Alsobrooks announced Assistant Police Chief Hector Velez as interim chief during a national search for a new leader of the department of more than 1,600 officers and civilian employees.
Alsobrooks said a firm has been retained to help with the police chief search, but didn’t name the company.
Before a comprehensive study and review of the police department gets submitted to Alsobrooks by Oct. 30, a few police task force members already have a few ideas.
Ross said some suggestions he plans to present include are no-knock warrants, ending searches of vehicles during routine traffic stops and allowing residents to file grievances through the citizen complaint oversight panel that can be forwarded to the department’s Internal Affairs Division.
He said police reform must also include the county’s municipalities with police departments of their own. The town of Eagle Harbor has a police commissioner and receives coverage from county police.
“We got some good ideas that we’re going to share,” Ross said. “There’s work to do to make the police department better.”
Krystal Oriadha, another member of the task force and co-founder of the LGBTQ Dignity Project, said she remains optimistic all ideas will be heard. For instance, she helped organize countywide protests with Amity Pope, who leads Our Prince George’s, and laid a list of demands with other community leaders, such as:
– Ensure police officers reside in the county.
– Cut police funding and re-invest in other community resources.
– Pass laws prohibiting the use of force.
“We as community members are demanding they take them seriously,” she said. “We are all coming to the table because we want to make sure we protect Black and brown communities equally and with equity.”
Prince George’s County Council Chair Todd Turner (D-District 4) of Bowie said from a legislative perspective some of the police department regulations are under state law. For example, the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights, known as LEOBR, was created under state law and currently under review by state lawmakers.
Turner, who appointed Council member Rodney Streeter (D-District 7) of Hillcrest Heights to the task force, said the task force’s goal should be a consensus to improve county and municipal police departments through thoughtful, respectful dialogue.
“We supported the county executive putting this work group together so it can be measured, can be deliberative and make it the right policy for Prince George’s County,” he said.