Since Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy got sworn into office in January 2019, at least 12 county and municipal police officers have been indicted for assault, reckless endangerment and other offenses.
A grand jury indicted two more officers, Bryant Strong and Luis Aponte, on Thursday, Sept. 10 for various charges in two separate cases.
However, a grand jury ruled a few days before those cases the police-involved shooting death on Sept. 26, 2019, of Leonard Shand, 26, “was objectively reasonable.” In addition, the grand jury didn’t indict any of the nearly 12 officers involved.
Tyrone Powers, a former Maryland state trooper and FBI agent, wrote a nearly 40-page report for the state’s attorney office to help examine the case by looking at video footage, reading police documents and analyze the county’s use-of-force procedures. He concluded “the officers were justified in deploying deadly force.”
“I reached out to Dr. Powers awhile a go because we felt that was very important…to have an independent eye on those cases to provide a neutral report,” said State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy. “It is really important that I exercise that independence…and that’s what we’re doing.
“My office has a huge responsibility. We must ensure the public trust our decisions,” Braveboy said.
She acknowledged the police department has a negative reputation among some residents and those outside the county and remains concerned about bringing indictments against police officers.
“Every time we have to indict an officer, we know that erodes the public trust,” said Braveboy, who grew up in Prince George’s. “We have a duty and responsibility not only to apply the facts to the law and render decisions, but also to educate, inform and be transparent with our public.”
For instance, her office recently began Fourth Amendment training police officers. Later this year, sessions will assess the Fifth Amendment, de-escalation, use of force and public integrity open to all law enforcement agencies in the county.
As for Powers, who runs a consulting firm called The Powers Consulting Group of Baltimore, has assessed other police-involved incidents throughout the state.
He provided recommendations to enhance the Prince George’s police department. A few of the suggestion in the nearly 40-page report include:
– Establish a Safety Fusion Center where cases from various county police agencies are reviewed for coordination, consistency in response, consistency in training and interdepartmental communication.
– Review policies for deploying less lethal technology.
– Supply and require body cameras for all police agencies in the county.
Powers said an interview Thursday the department should enhance its mobile crisis unit that connects with mental health professionals. In the Shand case, he said only one or two voices were needed to communicate with Shand to help calm him down.
He said the number of people within a mobile crisis unit depends on a jurisdiction’s population and number of incidents not only dealing with police, but also fire emergencies and on a college campus.
“The training dictates that you should have one voice, or someone from the mobile crisis unit,” he said. “When you are experiencing someone in a crisis and dealing with anxiety. We are going to increasingly deal with people with mental health issues.”
Meanwhile, current and former Prince George’s police officers involved in a 2018 lawsuit against the department and county sent a letter to a police reform task force created by County Executive Angela Alsobrooks.
According to the letter dated Thursday from the United Black Police Officers and Hispanic National Law Enforcement associations, it suggests any data received from the county should be met with skepticism.
This remains based on a 94-page report from Michael E. Graham, a former 33-year veteran Los Angeles County Sheriff Department who determined the white officers with the Prince George’s have conducted racial and retaliatory practices.
Additional information from Graham’s report became public Thursday that shows out of more than 6,800 use of force incidents, about 86 percent happened to Black civilians and 8 percent against Latinos between January 2016 to the end of 2019.
The new information filed in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt also highlights 19 officers accounted for 685, or 10 percent, of those incidents. Fourteen of the officers were white and six of them involved no white civilians. The report doesn’t show the officers’ names.
Discrimination also extends to promoting officers, according to the report.
It noted, for instance, 61 percent of the department’s lieutenants and 81 percent of the captains are white. At the same time, it pointed out, 27 percent of the lieutenants and 19 percent at captains are Black. Five percent of the lieutenants are Latinos. There are no Latino holding the rank of captain.
Sixty-four percent of the county’s population of more than 909,000 is Black with another 19 percent Latino.
“We believe that the Task Force should not only press for complete data — including all materials cited in the Graham Report — but submit anything PGPD provides to the public record…” according to the police associations’ letter signed by retired Capt. Joe Perez and Lt. Thomas Boone. “In that way, we and others who have such data from other sources will be able to assess its completeness.”