Prince George's CountyWilliam J. Ford

Police Abuse, Misconduct by School Resource Officers to be Focus of Hearings

Two police reform hearings are scheduled for the same day Thursday, Oct. 29.

The first one scheduled at 4 p.m. is to review virtual testimony from advocates and the family of William Green, who reached a $20 million settlement agreement with Prince George’s County after a police officer killed him Jan. 27. The session is part of the police reform work group established by County Executive Angela Alsobrooks.

“There is not a stadium big enough in Maryland to put all the young Black men in that has been assaulted by PGPD,” said Dawn Dalton of Upper Marlboro, whose son was a victim of an assault by Prince George’s police about 10 years ago. “We keep testifying and keep testifying in front of this person and that person.

“It is an insult to our intelligence to continue to have us do the same thing,” she said. “It is dismissive. It is disrespectful to have people retraumatize themselves. It’s ridiculous.”

Dalton is likely to participate in a 6 p.m. symposium that same day on police reform. It is to be a virtual discussion hosted by The Maryland Coalition for Justice and Police Accountability and Baltimore Afro author and journalist Sean Yoes at the event labeled to discuss “what real police reform looks like for Maryland.”

In Prince George’s, some advocates say change should start at the top with a focus on interim Police Chief Hector Velez.

Kema Hutchinson-Harris of Clinton said Velez remains part of the wrongdoing documented in a lawsuit filed in December 2018 by Black and Latino officers alleging racial and retaliatory practices within the police department.

A nearly 100-page document written by Michael E. Graham, a 33-year veteran of the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department, comes as a part of the suit that highlights more than 6,800 use-of-force incidents occurred in the department between 2016 and 2019. About 86 percent happened against Black civilians and 8 percent against Latinos, according to the report.

As a co-founder of Community Justice, Hutchinson-Harris endured a two-year legal battle when police charged her son for attempted murder and other charges. A jury acquitted him in May 2019.

“He’s a part of the abuse,” she said about Velez. “To allow 6,800 use-of-force complaints to happen and do nothing? That’s a smack in our face.”

Meanwhile, the work group created by Alsobrooks isn’t going to discuss or assess any pending lawsuits.

However, it will review police department policies and procedures to provide recommendations for any changes to Alsobrooks by Dec. 4.

The panel also considered the issue of the continued use of county police officers as school resource officers, (SRO) during a three-hour meeting Oct. 22.

Barry Stanton, chief operation officer with the county public school system, summarized four distinct roles of school resource officers based on state training: educator, emergency manager, informal counselor and law enforcement.

“Hopefully they’re creating relationships with our students…to ensure that the students know that they’re not just there to be police officers and the role of law enforcement officers.”

The issue is to be an extension of consideration of the 33 Prince George’s, Bowie, Greenbelt and Hyattsville department police officers assigned to high schools.

Aarti Sidhu and Megan Berger, attorneys who help chair the Maryland Coalition to Reform School Discipline, have represented students suspended and expelled from schools.

“Discipline becomes outsourced to law enforcement and it really shouldn’t be. Discipline should remain in the school with teachers and administrators and educators,” she said. “We shouldn’t be criminalizing age-appropriate behavior.”

 

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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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