Op-EdOpinion

MURPHY/HELDRETH: Time for State’s Attorney Braveboy to Reveal Dangerous-Officer List

Prince George’s County Police Officer Darryl Wormuth, who is white, was indicted in April on multiple charges for allegedly grabbing a 17-year-old Black teenager by the neck and assaulting him while he was in handcuffs. State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy publicly applauded the PGPD officers who reported Officer Wormuth, both of whom were Black, and vowed to continue investigating all of the circumstances of the alleged assault. But her words, without more, do little to realistically ensure the safety and protection of Black and brown residents in Prince George’s County from abusive officers like Wormuth.

That’s because Wormuth was on the force for over 13 years in a majority-Black county before he was ever criminally charged. All that time, he was patrolling communities, making arrests, testifying in court against those accused of crimes – overwhelmingly Black people accused of crimes – to secure convictions. Wormuth had been the subject of at least one prior police brutality lawsuit and he had a documented history of using force against Black residents.

In just the past four years, he’s had over 24 use-of-force incidents, 21 involving Black complainants, according to records that came to light as a result of a federal racial discrimination lawsuit brought by Black and Latinx officers against the PGPD. Those past incidents, all the convictions Wormuth helped secure, and the many criminal cases still pending based on his word seem to be an afterthought now that he is finally off the streets. But there are others like him, with a history of use of force and other abuses against Black and brown residents, who still patrol communities.

Prince George’s County residents should have known about Wormuth’s history before he was ever indicted. Community members deserve to know how the people they pay to serve and protect their communities are conducting themselves. This becomes even more important when those community members are charged with crimes by those officers. In all criminal cases, it is the State’s constitutional obligation to disclose police officer misconduct under the Supreme Court’s 1963 ruling in Brady v. Maryland. But beyond legal principle, Prince George’s County residents continue to demand that corrupt officers be exposed and held accountable for their actions to prevent community members from being injured or killed by dangerous police officers.

Though she has provided no proof, Braveboy has made several efforts to reassure the community that her office is tracking problematic officers. In April, she announced her office had created a Brady list for officers deemed so untrustworthy that her office would not allow them to testify. The problem? No one from the public or even the defense bar has seen the list, which supposedly contained 28 officers, 15 of whom could not testify. Instead of releasing the list, Braveboy has continued to do rounds on media touting the list.

She even claimed there were two lists – a “Brady list” and her personal list of officers that she does not trust and won’t be allowed to testify in court – a list that, apparently, is growing. She further said that the material gets turned over to defense attorneys when appropriate. This is belied by her own line prosecutors, however, some of whom have denied that there is a formal list of officers. Some state’s attorneys take it seriously, some do not, and there is certainly no uniform culture of disclosure like Braveboy indicates.

In response to community demands to release the Brady list, Braveboy has cited Maryland law classifying police misconduct records as personnel records that cannot be publicly released. However, that excuse does not explain her office’s failure to consistently track police misconduct or even disclose everything that defendants are entitled to. And soon that excuse will vanish. As of Oct. 1, Anton’s Law — a new state law allowing for public inspection of police complaint and disciplinary records — went into effect, making police misconduct information more accessible to everyone. To her credit, Braveboy supported the passage of Anton’s law.

Now she must show — not just talk about — her commitment to real transparency and accountability by releasing her Brady list and any other lists tracking untrustworthy police officers and then hold those officers accountable for their misconduct. Releasing this information is only the first of many steps to ensure Black and brown residents of Prince George’s County can see how much real public safety the county’s police budget actually gets them.

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