Prince George's CountyWilliam J. Ford

Residents, Activists Rail Against Systemic Racism Within Prince George’s Police Dept.

One day after new information became public about alleged racial and retaliatory practices at the Prince George’s County Police Department, family members affected by police brutality and community activists demand officials implement stronger accountability measures.

The demands stem from information filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt from a report written last year by former Los Angeles County Sheriff Michael E. Graham. The document stems from a group of current and former Prince George’s police officers that filed a suit in December 2018.

During a virtual press conference Tuesday, the five requests residents and activists want county officials to immediately implement are:

• Allow for the community to help hire a new police chief and remove acting police Chief Hector Velez, Commander Kathleen Mills (former head of Internal Affairs) and Mark Magaw, a former police chief and the county’s current chief administrative officer for public safety.
• The county should stop spending millions of dollars to defend police misconduct.
• Empower the citizen oversight panel to impose, discipline and allow members to be chosen through a more community-oriented process from each of the seven police districts.
• Fire and prosecute officers with records of abuse against Blacks and Latinos, or committed perjury and cannot testify in court.
• Make trial board hearings of officer misconduct public and available online.

Nikki Owens, cousin of William Green, who former police officer Michael Owen Jr. fatally shot while he was handcuffed in a police cruiser in January 2020, said county officials such as County Executive Angela Alsobrooks are also liable for police misconduct. The county reached a settlement with the Green family for $20 million.

“Many people believe the Graham report speaks for itself,” she said. “It’s disappointing to know that all this information was known by several people in P.G. County going all the way up to Angela Alsobrooks. This is information that could have been to stop the abuse and murder years ago. They decided to do nothing about it.”

Some of the new information made public Monday through unredacted information includes two white officers who posted racial epithets on their social media accounts.

One of the officers, a sergeant at the time, posted a message on a Yahoo chat group for current and retired Prince George’s officers.

In the message, he called members of his command staff “baboons” and later posted, “Unless you’re in the ghetto-fide, butt-slappin, high-fivin, incompetent retard…you will always be wrong…especially if you don’t speak Ebonics,” according to the Graham report.

The report states the department reduced his rank and fined him $250, and the case was closed in January 2013.

“He was retained by the Department and in February 2018 was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant,” according to the unredacted Graham report.

A few hours after more of Graham’s unredacted report became public, the county released a statement and touting its own redacted report challenging Graham’s findings.

One example in the county report highlights an April 2016 complaint about a license plate from a white police officer that read “GFYOBMA,” which Graham allegedly wrote it stood for “Go F*** Yourself Obama.”

The county report said the department investigated the matter with former Police Chief Hank Stawinski and rejected the notion that officer Brian Selway said it stood for “Good For You Obama.”

According to the county report, Stawinski’s legal advisers informed him people with a Maryland license plate “had a direct First Amendment right to express their opinions.” In addition, the officer placed this on his personal vehicle.

“Mr. Graham only cites to Chief Stawinski’s belief of what the license plate stood for, rather than any proof of what Lieutenant Selway intended it to stand for,” the county report said.

Joanna Waisk, an attorney with the Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, said the county report didn’t address several concerns in the Graham report such as data of discrimination against Black and Latino officers.

The Graham report notes 71 percent of Black officers faced terminations or resignations, compared to 21 percent of white officers.

“[The county report] often defends indefensible conduct,” Wasik said.

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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