Prince George Settles Alleged Discrimination Lawsuit – NBC4 Washington
Prince George’s County has settled a lawsuit filed by colored officials alleging racial discrimination, retaliation and unfair advertising practices within the Prince George’s County Police Department.
After a two-and-a-half year struggle and more than $ 17 million in taxpayers’ money spent by District Chief Angela Alsobrooks administration, an agreement was reached last weekend.
Most of the funds went to legal fees for Venable LLP, the private law firm hired by the county to defend itself against the lawsuit.
Legislators, community activists and local residents called on Alsobrooks to settle the lawsuit. A corresponding petition was recently started.
News4 carried the news of the lawsuit when it was filed in December 2018, covering developments during the ongoing fight.
The lawsuit contained detailed internal practices that allowed for the unfair promotion of white officers and tougher discipline for black officers.
Federal Judge Theodore Chuang ordered a halt and a massive overhaul of the police agency’s promotion process in April.
“PGCPD has been aware of the significant differences in promotion rates based on breed since at least 2012, but has done virtually nothing to address them. Even when the panel identified specific issues in 2017 that could be investigated to address the negative impact of the promotion process, it did nothing, ”Chuang said.
District attorney Rhonda Weaver contradicted the judge and issued a statement in April claiming the promotion system was fair, saying in part, “The district and the department are committed to ensuring that their professionally developed promotion system continues promoting the most highly qualified officers – of all races, ethnic groups and backgrounds. “
According to the Maryland ACLU, the settlement includes policy changes to end bias in policing, significant disciplinary action for officials who commit racist acts against other officials or members of the community, and an end to discrimination and retaliation against black and Latinx officials, who challenge the police abuse.
The county spent millions fighting against the publication of a report filed as part of the lawsuit. It described alleged acts of racism and retaliation and a lack of oversight within the department. Former police chief Hank Stawinski resigned after the publication of the edited version of the report.
After an unedited version of the report was released, former home affairs officer Kathleen Mills retired. When another incident of white officers seeking revenge against black officer whistleblowers came to light, Alsobrooks urged former chief administrative officer for public security, Mark McGaw, to resign. All were named as defendants in the lawsuit.
Calls for the resignation of the Prince George’s County police leadership are growing after a trial was released detailing allegations of racism within the police department. The county spent millions of dollars fighting the publication of this report and a discrimination lawsuit by some of its officials. Tracee Wilkins, Prince George’s County Bureau chief, shares the new calls for change.
When the county battled the lawsuit, Alsobrooks called for police reform. A task force recommended 50 changes to revise policing in the county. A nationwide search resulted in the hiring of a new boss, Malik Aziz, from Dallas. Alsobrooks said she believed the department would benefit from guidance from outside the department.
In several interviews, Alsobrooks told News4 that their efforts to reform the county police force were a separate issue from the lawsuit and that it was their fiduciary duty to defend the county against legal disputes.
Prince George’s County Police Lt. Thomas Boone, President of the United Black Police Officers Association, said in a statement: “I am delighted that all of the key players who posed a particular problem have now disappeared and the new boss offers an opportunity for change. This is an important step, but the work is not finished yet. “
Retired county police captain Joe Perez, who is president of the Hispanic National Law Enforcement Association, said, “The deal with all the policy changes speaks volumes. People lost their jobs, some were demoted, some were displaced, and community members were killed. I hope that our personal sacrifices will result in positive change for both officials and the communities they serve so that everyone can be treated with dignity and respect. “
As part of the settlement, there will be additional monitoring to ensure the division is complying with the new mandates, according to a statement from the Maryland ACLU.
Prince George’s district chief Angela Alsobrooks announced sweeping changes for the district’s police force.
Throughout the process, District Attorney Weaver released statements that stood by the department, saying there was no wrongdoing. The county hired former Montgomery County police chief Tom Manger to prepare a report contradicting the report commissioned by the officers. Manger noted that Prince George Police were disciplining the officers and conducting an investigation using best practices.
In February, Weaver issued a statement partially stating: “Prince George’s County will continue to vigorously defend the workplace discrimination lawsuit brought against Prince George’s County Police by HNLEA and ACLU. Based on the facts, the county believes that the HNLEA lawsuit is unfounded and that there were no policies or practices to discriminate within the ministry. “
The County Police Department has a long history of documented discriminatory behavior. This resulted in years of oversight by the U.S. Department of Justice and the establishment of a Citizens Complaints Oversight Board to review investigations into excessive violence and police misconduct in the 2000s.
A pair of bombs hit Prince George’s County police. Prince George’s County Bureau chief Tracee Wilkins reports that Chief Hank Stawinski resigned Thursday shortly after an explosive report accused his department of systemic racism.
For many years, however, according to reports from the committee, the committee’s recommendations were largely not implemented by the department heads.
The settlement calls for policy changes, including protection against biased policing, reforms of promotion procedures and changes in police discipline.
A statement from the Maryland ACLU said: “Other provisions of the Settlement Agreement provide approximately $ 2.3 million to individual and organizational plaintiffs in compensation for past discrimination and retaliation. The agreement provides that the county will recruit attorneys from the Washington Lawyers Committee, ACLU of Maryland, and Arnold & Porter, a DC law firm that brought the lawsuit, for the $ 825,000 cost they advanced and be given to them also pay US $ 5 million in legal fees earmarked in federal citizenship cases. Fees will be used by all three groups to fund future pro bono cases and other charitable causes. “
New evidence was uncovered in a civil lawsuit filed by some police officers against the Prince George County Police Department. Tracee Wilkins, Prince George’s County Bureau director, has the latest developments.
Groups representing colored officers also filed a complaint with the Justice Department’s civil rights division. It is still being investigated. More than 100 officials signed the complaint, according to the officials who filed it.
“We are committed to working together for change,” said Sonya Zollicoffer, a retired lieutenant and vice president of the United Black Police Officers Association.