Prince George's CountyWilliam J. Ford

New Information Fuels Case of Prince George’s County’s Black Police Officers

An ongoing lawsuit against the Prince George’s County police department illustrates additional incidents of racially-motivated and retaliatory conduct against Black and Latino officers and citizens, based on new unredacted information released Monday.

The information filed in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt includes a report written last year by former Los Angeles County Sheriff Michael E. Graham on behalf of a group of current and former Prince George’s police officers who filed a suit in December 2018.

Some of the new information includes a case of two white officers who posted racial epithets on their social media accounts. One of the officers, a sergeant at the time, posted a message on a Yahoo chat group for current and retired Prince George’s officers.

In part, according to the Graham report, he called members of his command staff “baboons” and later posted, “Unless you’re in the ghetto-fide, butt-slappin, high-fivin, incompetent retard . . . you will always be wrong . . . specially if you don’t speak Ebonics.”

The report states the department reduced his rank and fined him $250 with the case closed in January 2013.

“He was retained by the Department and in February 2018 was promoted to the rank of lieutenant,” the Graham report alleges. Other allegations include the department’s failure to investigate three complaints in 2016 and 2018 from the constituents of former Del. Jimmy Tarlau and council members Dannielle Glaros and Den Taveras. The complaints went directly to former police chief Hank Stawinski, the report states.

The county released a statement Monday in regards to the judge’s decision to release the unredacted Graham report. However, the county hired former police veteran J. Thomas Manger who countered the “assumptions” made in the Graham report.

“The Manger Report repeatedly points out instances where Mr. Graham failed to review or consider essential documents, misstates key facts and dates, takes statements and events out of context and relies solely on the allegations of some disgruntled and discredited officers,” said Rhonda L. Weaver, an attorney in the county’s Office of Law. “The Manger Report concluded that, on the whole, the Department has complied with its policies for addressing harassment and discrimination complaints, which are commensurate with best practices and industry standards.”

According to a redacted report from Manger dated Oct. 19, the county disputes a discrimination charge in regards to former Capt. Joe Perez being promoted to the rank in February 2016. Perez sought a promotion to major but was ineligible in the promotion cycle one month earlier, his report states.

Five Black officers received promotions to the rank of major between October 2016 to August 2018.

“Mr. Graham ignores these promotions of Black officers to major,” Manger wrote. “Regardless, I do not believe these statistics indicate retaliation or discrimination against Captain Perez.”

Kema Hutchinson-Harris, Clinton native and co-founder of Community Justice, said Graham’s “detailed” report highlights the racial history within the police department.

One section in the report Hutchinson-Harris states that nearly 86 percent of the more than 6,800 of use-of-force incidents filed against police involved Black civilians while another 8 percent involved Latinos between January 2016 to the end of 2019.

Hutchinson-Harris attributes some of the department’s failings to elected officials including County Executive Angela Alsobrooks who served as the county state’s attorney when some of the allegations took place.

“How do they look at our face as constituents and say, ‘We’re doing nothing to protect you and everything to protect our officers?’” said Hutchinson-Harris, whom a Prince George’s officer allegedly assaulted in May 2017. “That is diabolical.”

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William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer

I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways: Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com

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