Prince George's CountyWilliam J. Ford

Prince George’s Residents, Advocates Demand Police Reform, Accountability

Dorothy Copp Elliott said justice remains unfulfilled after police in Prince George’s County shot her 24-year-old son, Archie “Artie” Elliott III approximately 14 times while handcuffed in a police cruiser June 18, 1993.

Pamela Brooks said Prince George’s police are culpable for the death of her 17-year-old son, Amir Brooks, who died from his injuries Aug. 6, 2014, while riding a dirt bike and being chased by police into southeast D.C.

These mothers and other family members whose loved ones either died, or became victims of police-involved incidents came together at a police reform rally Saturday, Oct. 17 in Forestville.

“I want to see the laws changed and the [police] mindset needs to change,” said Tahlita Hopkins, 48, sister to Gary Hopkins Jr., who got shot and killed by police Nov. 27, 1999. “Your job is to serve and protect the people and [police officers] act like the people are their enemies.”

Marion Gray-Hopkins (center), mother of Gary Hopkins Jr., speaks at a police reform rally Oct. 17 in Forestville. Gray-Hopkins stands alongside other mothers whose children died in police-involved shootings. (Anthony Hopkins/The Washington Informer)
Marion Gray-Hopkins (center), mother of Gary Hopkins Jr., speaks at a police reform rally Oct. 17 in Forestville. Gray-Hopkins stands alongside other mothers whose children died in police-involved shootings. (Anthony Hopkins/The Washington Informer)

The rally happened two days after a 14-member work group comprised of state delegates approved police reform recommendations. Some of the suggestions included repealing the controversial Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights, a limit on no-knock warrants and a ban on chokeholds.

State senators from the Judicial Proceedings Committee also presented proposed legislation on similar police reform last month.

The goal for lawmakers will be to draft the items into legislation when lawmakers are scheduled to reconvene Jan. 13.

A few people traveled from the Baltimore area to participate in the rally.

Rhanda Dormeus of Baltimore City talked about her daughter Korryn Gaines, 23, who got shot and killed by Baltimore County police Aug. 1, 2016.

Judge Mickey J. Norman overturned a jury’s decision in February 2019 for the Korryn Gaines family to receive $38 million after the jury ruled one year prior that Officer Roy Ruby showed disregards for human life. Police also shot Gaines’ 5-year-old son, but her survived his injuries.

In July, the Maryland Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, overturned Norman’s verdict.

“We got to vote these judges out, too, because they’re working with law enforcement,” Dormeus said.

Besides those proposals, participants in Saturday’s rally also want demands from Prince George’s officials.

For instance, require police accountability for those killed by police that include the recent grand jury decision that claimed the police-involved death of Leonard Shand, 48, was “objectively reasonable.”

Two other requests want the state’s attorney office to publicly lists officers barred from testifying in court on previous cases; and support statewide police reform and accountability initiatives from dozens of advocacy groups.

Half of the demands are part of a report released in June that highlights racial and retaliatory practices within the police department. The nearly 100-page document written by Michael E. Graham, a 33-year veteran of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, comes as a part of lawsuit by former and current Prince George’s police officers against the county and department.

One of the requests: provide an updated figure on what the county has spent in legal fees challenging the lawsuit led by the Hispanic National Law Enforcement Association. The most up-to-date figure remains $6.3 million through April.

After the rally, some people decided to drive from Forestville and express their demands in the Upper Marlboro neighborhood of County Executive Angela Alsobrooks.

“Since your county executive lives in this neighborhood, put pressure upon her [and] put pressure upon this system to do right by us,” said Jonathan Hutto, a community activist and organizer of Prince George’s People’s Coalition. “Or the movement is going to spill over in your neighborhoods. It’s going to spill over [in] your work places. It’s going to disrupt recreational activities. We’re going to be shutting it down from each and every angle of this county until we get justice.”

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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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