Similar to ongoing discussions on police reform nationwide, Prince George’s County officials proposed policy recommendations and solutions during a more than two-hour virtual briefing Tuesday.
The county council briefing even offered heartfelt and blunt testimony on police accountability, or lack thereof, based on recent history of some police officers.
For instance, Demante Ward-Blake, 24, of Hillcrest Heights was paralyzed during an altercation with police while handcuffed during an October traffic stop.
In January, a jury indicted former Officer Michael Owen after he fatally shot William Greene of southeast D.C., who was handcuffed in the back of a squad car.
And last month, three officers were suspended after one of them was recorded kicking a man twice while on the ground in Langley Park. The case remains under investigation.
Angelo Consoli, president of the Fraternal Order Police Lodge 89, said three of the four officers most recently prosecuted were turned in by fellow officers.
“When incidents pop up, the thing I’ve always asked is people don’t rush to judgment. Let the investigation play out,” he said. “This department has been very transparent. If an officer didn’t do anything right, it is going to come out and we’re going to tell you why.”
County Council member Monique Anderson-Walker (D-District 8) of Fort Washington said the county still has much work to be done and that she is particularly disturbed by the video footage of the Ward-Blake incident.
“We’re not light years ahead of anybody. We have issues,” she said. “There are some things we need to get in order so that we can move forward well. There are some good that we do, but if we pretend that the bad isn’t there, then we’re missing the whole point.”
Council member Jolene Ivey (D-District 5) of Cheverly continues to worry about her five Black sons “when the go out into the world here in Prince George’s County. I still have that fear. Although things have improved, they’ve certainly not improved enough.”
County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, who mentioned an incident in which her sister was pulled over by a county police officer “that should not have happened,” presented two proposals before the council.
One proposal was to reallocate $20 million from the police department capital budget for a safety training facility to build one to address mental health and substance. It would be presented to the county council and added to existing bond legislation for the November ballot.
Alsobrooks also called for the establishment of a work group composed of residents, community leaders and other stakeholders to examine the policies and practices of the police department.
“The outcomes have improved, but I think we have a lot of work to do with the culture. Those are two different things,” she said. “That’s an area we need some more work. There is a concept of cultural competency that almost can’t be taught. That’s why it’s important that we hire more individuals from the county. I just think that makes good sense.”
However, Council member Mel Franklin (At-Large) of Upper Marlboro said state law prohibits residency requirement by local jurisdictions. He said financial and other incentives could be presented.
Local activists Krystal Oriadha and Amity Pope agree. They also hope to be a part of the work group Alsobrooks announced Tuesday.
The two women organized a “Chalk the Streets” gathering Monday in front of the Wayne K. Curry Administration Building in Largo to write down names of those who died in police custody, policy recommendations and other messages. Some county government offices are located there, including Alsobrooks’ office.
“We want to make people aware that Prince George’s County isn’t immune to what’s going around the country,” said Oriadha, co-founder of the LGBTQ Dignity Project. “We’re trying to go to the doorsteps of the people in power. That’s the police agendas. That’s elected officials. They have the power to make change. We’re trying to find the most [impactful] ways to [voice] our demands.”