Demand for leadership change in wake of report
Originally published in WTOP
Civil rights groups are calling for immediate changes within the Prince George’s County Police Department a day after a judge made public the findings of an independent investigation into officers’ claims of racism and retaliation in the department.
As their faces flashed across a Zoom call grid, community activists, leaders and family members who were part of the effort to get the report’s findings made public took turns describing why they are joining together again to make demands of the department.
The expert report by Michael Graham — a former senior officer for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department — was written in connection with a lawsuit against the department by the Hispanic National Law Enforcement Association and others. It was ordered unredacted earlier this month by a federal judge in Maryland.
“The group demands that the department become more transparent and accountable by posting and making viewable online to the public, in real time, trial board hearings of officer misconduct.”
One demand, said Nikki Owens: “Clean house and install a new admin for the Prince George’s County Police Department, removing everyone at the top, including acting Chief Hector Velez; Cmdr. Kathleen Mills, former head of the internal affairs; and Prince George’s Chief Administrative Officer for Public Safety Mark McGaw.”
Owens, whose cousin William Green was killed by county officer Michael Owen last year, praised the minority officers who reported racism and retaliation within the department that led to the independent Graham report.
The groups’ other demands include involving the community in the process to select the next chief; terminating officers who have perjured themselves and cannot testify in court; and holding the department accountable for spending taxpayer dollars to attempt to “hide full details of the Graham expert witness report from the public and for spending millions of taxpayer dollars to defend police misconduct,” the group said in a statement.
It also wants to empower the Prince George’s Citizen Complaint Oversight Panel to impose discipline and have the panel comprise members chosen by — and representative of — the county’s districts.
Finally, the group demands that the department become more transparent and accountable by posting and making viewable online to the public, in real time, trial board hearings of officer misconduct.
“The unsealed Graham report confirms what we knew. The report shows that our police department cannot continue to operate with its current leadership. We join to demand that PGPD clean house and install a new group of leaders,” said Ashanti Martinez of CASA.
Prince George’s County police did not return a request to comment about the group’s demands, which they want to see addressed immediately.
“Systemic racism is rampant in our entire judicial system,” Owens said. “They were abused and mistreated, and no one listened. No one listened to them. I want the public to know that there are police officers who are out there trying to take a stand, and we need to stand with them.”