Prince George's CountyWilliam J. Ford

Prince George’s Police Chief Resigns in Wake of Lawsuit Alleging Departmental Racism

Hours after a virtual press conference revealed white Prince George’s County police officers allegedly used racial slurs and retaliatory methods against fellow Black and Latino officers, police Chief Hank Stawinski resigned Thursday.

County Executive Angela Alsobrooks announced she accepted the resignation of Stawinski, a Prince George’s native whose been with the department since 1992.

Alsobrooks plans to provide more details during a press conference at noon Friday.

Stawinski, who served as president of the Maryland Chiefs of Police Association, was appointed as Prince George’s top lawman in February 2016.

He couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday.

Earlier in the day, the ACLU of Maryland helped organize a virtual press conference to release a nearly 100-page report written by Michael E. Graham, a former 33-year veteran with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. The document shows more than two dozen incidents of white officers who allegedly used racial slurs about officers and those in the community, white officers not disciplined for various incidents and Black and Latino officers transferred to other officers for speaking out against unjust behavior.

Graham’s report is based on a lawsuit filed in 2018 led by former county police officer and retired Capt. Joe Perez, president of the Hispanic National Law Enforcement Officers.

The incidents, according to the report, include Arvester Horner, a Black officer, charged with driving under the influence in North Carolina. The department gave Horner a 120-hour suspension and a two-rank demotion and removed him from the promotional cycle for one year.

A white officer charged with the same offense was investigated by another white officer who only “imposed fines.”

The report also notes an incident in May 2016 when a white sergeant asked Cpl. Sean Miller to see a picture of his fiancée, who is Mexican. The sergeant allegedly said “she was cheating on him cuz that’s what they [Latinos] do,” the report stated.

“There are practices within the department that result in complaints by civilians and minority officers about racial harassment or discrimination that are not being treated appropriately, in that they are either not investigated, not investigated appropriately, or not disciplined appropriately,” Graham wrote in the report. “The current leadership of the department appears to have made a deliberate choice not to track or monitor its performance concerning these matters.”

Graham was retained to write the report by Arnold & Porter Kay Scholer, a legal firm in northwest D.C., the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, and the ACLU of Maryland.

Portions of the report erased names, certain details of incidents and data such as the percentages of white, Black and Latino officers in the department in December 2017.

The report said that although Prince George’s County is 67 percent Black, about 17 percent of the police force were Latino, 14 percent non-Hispanic white and “the sworn officer force is substantially skewed towards white officers.”

The report also alleges Stawinski received several complaints from Black and Latino officers about white officers using racial slurs and forms of retaliation, but did nothing, according to the report.

Joanna Wasik, counsel for Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, said the police department redacted the information permitted by law. However, “it is within the power of PGPD to remove that confidentiality designation.”

A representative from the county police department responded to an email Thursday and forward also request for comment to the county executive’s office.

A representative from the county executive’s office couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday afternoon.

The report coincides with a legal brief filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, which challenges the police department’s claim to limit the number of discriminatory acts that may be considered at a trial.

“The position that there is too much discrimination that we can prove is ridiculous,” Deborah Jean, legal affairs director for the ACLU, said during a virtual press conference. “The point of the lawsuit is to show that there’s a pattern and practice of racial discrimination and retaliation in the department. That’s what the lawsuit seeks to disclose.”

The subject of police brutality and other forms of racism was again brought to the national forefront by the death of George Floyd, who died while in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25.

The protests also pushed for state and local leaders to incorporate new police policies and procedures to change the system within law enforcement.

Alsobrooks announced Tuesday she will work to reallocate $20 million from the police budget and use it to build a mental health facility. It would be presented to the county council and added to existing bond legislation for placement on the November ballot.

“It was kind of impressive, but it’s not enough,” said Kema Harris, co-founder of Community Justice Coalition, adding that her son was assaulted in 2017 by a county officer mentioned in the report. “We need something done now to stop police brutality.”

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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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