The group called for County Executive Angela D. Alsobrooks (D) and the department to terminate officers who have a record of “abuse” against residents of color or those who committed perjury and cannot testify in court. The community organizations also called on the county to make police disciplinary hearings more transparent and open to the public and grant the Citizen Complaint Oversight Panel the power to impose discipline, with members appointed by the community.
“I, like many people, believe the . . . report speaks for itself,” said Nikki Owens, cousin of William Green, who was handcuffed and sitting in a police cruiser when he was shot and killed by a Black Prince George’s officer. The county later agreed to pay his family a $20 million settlement.
After Green’s death, The Washington Post reported that the officer who killed him had repeatedly used force against civilians but the department’s early-warning system failed to properly identify him as a risk.
Owens was joined Tuesday by representatives from the NAACP, Casa de Maryland, the Prince George’s People’s Coalition, Community Justice, and Concerned Citizens for Bail Reform in calling for change after the release of what is referred to as the “Graham report.”
“William Green is a victim of everything in this Graham report,” Owens said. “He is a victim of every one of these demands.”
The group also asked the county to remove from power interim police chief Hector Velez, Chief Administrative Officer for Public Safety Mark Magaw and Commander Kathleen Mills, the former head of internal affairs. All three are defendants in the discrimination lawsuit, along with former police chief Hank Stawinski, who resigned in June when the expert report was first filed in court.
The lawsuit, filed in 2018 by a group of Black and Hispanic Prince George’s police officers, alleges the department discriminates against officers of color on the basis of race and retaliates against those who blow the whistle on misconduct.
The county, which is a majority-Black and -Latino suburb of D.C., has fought the lawsuit in court for two years and has repeatedly promised to “vigorously defend” the police department. In a statement, the county reiterated its assertion that the lawsuit is “without merit.”
The lengthy report was written by a former law enforcement official hired by the plaintiffs to analyze hiring, disciplinary and internal affairs data and documents.
The analysis details specific allegations of racist behavior by individuals and then links them to data that the plaintiffs say demonstrates systemic disparities in the department.
In its own expert report, written by the former police chief of Montgomery County, Prince George’s has argued that the plaintiffs’ report was inadequate and selective in its analysis.
County Attorney Rhonda Weaver said in a statement that it “failed to review or consider essential documents, misstates key facts and dates,” and “takes statements and events out of context.”
Weaver said the allegations come from “disgruntled and discredited officers.”
The plaintiffs, who are working with the ACLU of Maryland and the Washington Lawyers Committee, have engaged outside community groups who have argued together that bias within the department ultimately hurts citizens outside of it.
Velez has been acting chief for eight months as a police reform work group appointed by the county executive examined the department’s policies. Earlier this month, Velez joined Alsobrooks as she announced she would be implementing 46 of the work group’s 50 recommended changes.
Among those was a commitment to allocate more resources to the Citizen Complaint Oversight Panel.
Despite Velez’s commitment to change, the community members on the call said true reform cannot happen while those listed in the lawsuit remain in leadership.
Tracy Shand, sister of Leonard Shand, who was shot by police from multiple agencies last year in Hyattsville, said she wants to know what comes next, not just from her local elected officials but also from those representing Prince George’s in Annapolis who are considering a host of police overhaul bills.
“What is the next move? What do you want us to do next?” she said. “We are following your laws and following your procedures, and it seems to me you are not listening.”
Dawn Dalton of Community Justice was also eager for the county to reform.
“At the end of the day, just do the right thing,” Dalton said. “We all see what we see. We know what we know.”