Protesters hold signs during a Sept. 15 rally outside Suitland High School in Forestville, Maryland, against school resource officers in Prince George's County schools. (Anthony Tilghman/The Washington Informer)
Protesters hold signs during a Sept. 15 rally outside Suitland High School in Forestville, Maryland, against school resource officers in Prince George's County schools. (Anthony Tilghman/The Washington Informer)

A Prince George’s County police reform work group completed a final report with 50 recommendations, including not hiring officers fired or resigned while under investigation for misconduct, County Council approving a use-of-force statute and revise the police department’s hiring policies.

Another proposal would reduce the size and eliminate arrest powers of security personnel in the public schools.

However, the plan to completely removing security detail known as school resource officers (SROs) isn’t listed in the more than 100-page document.

“That is what we will be advocating from the school board,” Krystal Oriadha, one of the 23 members on the work group, said Thursday, Dec. 3. “I feel confident and hopeful that the new school board [with two new people elected last month] will vote in solidarity with the community to remove SROs from schools.”

Oriadha, a local activist who co-founded PG Changer Makers, said a percentage of any payouts and settlements should come from the police department budget, “but that recommendation didn’t make it, either.”

In September, the county agreed on a $20 million settlement with the family of William Green, who got shot six times while handcuffed in a police cruiser in January by former county police Cpl. Michael Owen Jr.

The family’s attorney, Billy Murphy, said the figure represents the largest in Maryland and one of the biggest in the nation for an unlawful shooting by police. A court date for the former police officer has been scheduled for March 22.

The work group became established after the police department faced public scrutiny from a June 18 report written by Thomas Graham, a former 33-year veteran with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Part of the report revealed white police officers allegedly used racial slurs and retaliatory methods against fellow Black and Latino officers.

The nearly 94-page document also highlights white officers also allegedly used racial epithets toward residents, white officers didn’t receive disciplinary actions for various incidents and Black and Latino officers got transferred to other offices for speaking out against alleged misconduct.
Hours after the report’s release, then-Police Chief Hank Stawinski resigned.

County Executive Angela Alsobrooks appointed Assistant Police Chief Hector Velez as interim chief as a search continues for a permanent leader.

Alsobrooks said in a statement Friday, Dec. 4 she plans to announce by late January which recommendations to implement.

“As a community, we continue to confront each and every challenge that we face together, and I know that our collective efforts on this issue will ensure our Police Department becomes a model for the nation,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Graham report coincides with a lawsuit filed in December 2018 led by the Hispanic National Law Enforcement Association.

The police reform work group didn’t address any current or pending lawsuits.

The HNLEA legal team comprised of representatives from the Arnold & Porter law firm, Kay Scholer of Northwest, the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs and the ACLU of Maryland issued a statement one day after the work group released the document Dec. 2.

They summarized how the Graham report proved racist and retaliatory practices occurred in the police department.

“Although the Task Force is recommending some important changes which we have sought in our lawsuit,” according to a statement from the legal team. “It is unfortunate that it did not address a number of other critical issues that Black and Brown officers who challenged rampant racial discrimination and retaliation in PGPD recommended be addressed and that are central to remedying the problems at the department.”

The recommendations are separated into five policy areas: community engagement and quality services; employee recruitment and retention; financial management; independent oversight, compliance and integrity; and internal policies and county regulations.

Some of the suggestions:

– Reducing the size of security personnel in the schools and reallocating money toward mental and behavioral services for students.
– Creating financial incentives, such as salary increases or tax credits for housing, for police officers to reside in the county,
– Conducting an annual financial audit of all settlements, fines and other payouts related to the police department.
– Establishing an Office of Integrity and Compliance that would include hiring a race and gender equity director.
– Making sure officers distribute business cards “on routine traffic stops and during other interactions.”

The report also highlights use of force data, attorney fees and service calls, noting, for instance, that of the 487 excessive force allegations against county police between 2018 and Dec. 1 of this year, approximately 253, or 51 percent, of them involved Blacks presenting accusations of abuse by police.

During the same period, about 200, or 41 percent, of the racial demographic of those individuals are labeled “unknown.” However, no whites made any complaints of excessive force.

Coverage for the Washington Informer includes Prince George’s County government, school system and some state of Maryland government. Received an award in 2019 from the D.C. Chapter of the Society of...

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