Sunday, February 3, 2019

Discrimination & Retaliation continues at PGPD

Over the years, the Hispanic National Law Enforcement Association & the United Black Police Officers Association have met with prior administrations in order to discuss concerns of racial inequities in transfers, assignments, promotions, and discipline.  Although at times we did not agree on solutions, there was a mutual respect of perspectives and resolutions were found. The issues faced were always kept within the police department.  While we have had some racial tensions within law enforcement in the past, those racial tensions have been polarized by events such as Ferguson Missouri, Baltimore Maryland, and Charlottesville Virginia.  As a result, many in power within law enforcement see minority Law Enforcement officers quite differently.  This is what I refer to as having Shades of Blue within Law Enforcement.  There is no problem transferring, investigating, retaliating against, and firing the Darker Shades of Blue.  And like in the 1960’s, going after those non-minorities who affiliate with the Darker Shades of Blue.

We originally filed a complaint with the DOJ around March 2016.  After receiving additional complaints from the rank and file and being personally targeted, we filed an amended DOJ complaint in October 2016.  Since January 4, 2017 we've met with the PGPD administration in order to discuss some of the concerns.  Through the help of the NAACP, we requested the help from DOJ, Community Relations Service, in order to try and mediate the numerous concerns that were brought to our attention and the administration.  The administration refused to mediate even after I personally urged the Public Safety Director to contact DOJ and take steps to mediate. Then the administration took active steps to conceal the wrongdoing and target the complainants.  Often times, minority surrogates were used against us in order to create the illusion that the retaliation or wrongdoing was just.

Over the course of the three years, the administration has chosen to send a very strong message to those involved in the issues raised. By doling out retaliatory transfers, denial of due process during investigations, terminations, denial of promotions, vilifying accusers, as well as a variety of micro-aggressions against anyone exposing wrongdoing and racist behaviors. This administration sent a message that was loud and clear.  As each incident unfolded, we passed along this information to the DOJ, Civil Rights Division and the number of complainants rose.      

Over this same period of time, we advised the Chief of Police of the impact of his decisions on officers, the agency, the county government, and the citizens of Prince George’s County.   His answer was always the same - 'I don’t make decisions based on how they are going to look.'  As of late, we all look very bad.  Not every officer is a bad apple, not every non-minority or minority officer is a bad apple.  This administration chose their personal feelings and vindictiveness over the image of the institution and the well-being of the community we are sworn to protect.  It is with great consternation that we expose these misdeeds to the public.

It is worthy to note that over the past three years EEOCs filed have risen approximately six hundred percent (600%).  Under this administration we have fired more people of color than several of the past administrations combined. The last Caucasian officer fired by the county police was in May 2015 for involvement in a homicide in Charles County.  The last white officer convicted in criminal court (November 2017) for assaulting a homeless woman is still employed within the police department’s community services division.  According to WTOP, the Officer saw the woman sleeping outside of a pawnshop in Lanham, Maryland, in September 2016 and asked her to move along. “She was not moving fast enough for him, so he picked her up by her ears to get her standing to her feet,” John Erzen with the Prince George’s County State’s Attorney’s Office told WTOP.  He also hit the woman in the head and yelled obscenities at her, Erzen said. “This whole incident was witnessed by two other county police officers who reported to their supervisors what happened,” Erzen added. (two minority officers) He was suspended from his job in October 2016, and now a judge has found him guilty of second-degree assault and misconduct in office.

Most fired in the last three years have been African American males and African American females.  An African American female, mother of 5, is scheduled for a departmental trial board where she faces termination for a procedural violation.  One would think in a predominately African American county, with an African American County Executive, this trend of targeting minorities would not continue.  The one non-minority officer convicted in court in November of 2017 is still among us, placed on administrative duties working with our kids and our community.

Having the Department of Justice conduct a Pattern & Practice Investigation can reset the current trends.  We need to remove the fox from guarding the hen house and develop a level playing field for all officers and our community regardless of color or gender. We need to ensure that when there is doubt, officers are confident to bring forth inquiries without fear of retaliation.  In addition, we need strong new leadership that is willing to address these very serious issues before they continue to spill into our communities.  Leadership that is willing to act now and not wait for an outside agency to fix our problems.

Joe Perez, President
Hispanic National Law Enforcement Association

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