Prince George's CountyWilliam J. Ford

Prince George’s Residents, Advocates Demand Police Reform

Before a work group completes a report by Oct. 30 with recommendations to reform the Prince George’s County police department, some residents and advocates want at least a half-dozen added to ensure full accountability.

The list of demands come from family members such as Tracy Shand, whose 49-year-old brother Leonard Shand was shot and killed by police Sept. 26, 2019, in Hyattsville.

“When you killed my brother, you knocked at my door, so I can’t stay in my corner no more,” Shand said Friday, Sept. 25 outside the Wayne K. Curry Administration Building in Largo. “It is horrifying to come up here and tell you that change has to happen in P.G. County.”

To accentuate their point, Shand and other supporters held orange and white posters with 82 names of individuals killed by county police.

Shand, affected loved ones and other supporters chose to speak in front of the administration building because it houses the office of County Executive Angela Alsobrooks.

The 23-member task force held a meeting Thursday, Sept. 24 that included a presentation from the county’s Office of Homeland Security. One of the agency’s main duties is to provide dispatch of police, fire and other emergency services through county’s 911 call center.

Alsobrooks has said the work group established in July would not only listen to community suggestions, but also assess and analyze police department use of force, hiring and training policies. Meanwhile, residents on Friday focused one six demands such as to force police accountability for those killed by police in the majority-Black jurisdiction in Maryland. This demand connects to the Leonard Shand case because a grand jury ruled several weeks ago his death “was objectively reasonable” and didn’t indict any of the nearly 12 officers involved.

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

Two other demands are part of a report released in June that highlights racial and retaliatory practices within the police department. Michael E. Graham, a 33-year veteran of the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department, wrote the nearly 100-page document as a part of lawsuit by former and current Prince George’s police officers against the county and department. Residents and advocates want the rest of the report unredacted that shows more than 6,800 use of force incidents occurred in the department.

In addition, for county officials to provide an updated figure on what has spent in legal fees challenging the lawsuit filed in December 2018 led by the Hispanic National Law Enforcement Association. The most up-to-date figure remains $6.3 million through April.

In the meantime, some family members such as Josette Blocker continue to see and feel the pain endured after a police incident.

Blocker’s nephew, Demonte Ward-Blake, remains paralyzed from the waist down after former county police officer Bryant Strong grabbed Ward-Blake while handcuffed and slammed him on the ground during a traffic stop last year.

A grand jury indicted Strong on Sept. 10 for second-degree assault, misconduct in office and reckless endangerment.

“Was it enough?” Blocker said about the charges against the officer. “We’re thankful that did happen, but I have to speak on behalf of all of the other victims that are out there. All of the [people] that didn’t get justice like we did.”

The sixth and final demand: Alsobrooks support a statewide platform of police reform demands from the ACLU of Maryland and dozens of other community and nonprofit organizations.

A state Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee completed three straight days of hearings last week which focused on proposed legislation such as the controversial Law Enforcement Officer’s Bill of Rights statute, state prosecutors investigating crimes committed by police officers that result in serious physical harm or death, and police officers to report misconduct by another officer.

State Sen. Jill Carter (D-Baltimore City), who sits on the committee and presented six reform bills, said this year’s difference comes from the police-involved death May 25 of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Carter also noted the difference in Maryland leadership such as committee chair Sen. William C. Smith Jr. (D-Montgomery County), who presented five draft bills.

“You see the chair sit there for the whole thing. This wouldn’t have never happened four years ago,” Carter said in an interview Friday. “There’s been a shift in the culture in the legislature and a shifting in thinking on reform. People want change.”

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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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