WASHINGTON — Dozens of Prince George’s County police officers have signed onto a Department of Justice complaint alleging “rampant discrimination” inside the police department.
The letter was written back in October 2016 and claims that there are “disparities in discipline” of Hispanic and black police officers compared to their white counterparts. Other discrimination claims within the letter include minority officers being passed up for promotions and transfers, as well as allegations of officers being retaliated against or vilified when trying to “expose wrongdoing.”
The complaint, authored jointly by the Hispanic National Law Enforcement Association and the United Black Police Officers Association, was sent to the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division and calls for an impartial and independent “compliance review” of the county’s police department.
“The current administration has chosen to ignore complaints and retaliate against those who raise concerns,” a joint statement by both associations read.
The statement continued: “Our goal is to have an outside entity look at our agency’s policies and practices and make recommendations in order to prevent the further disharmony within the department and within the community it serves.”
The two organizations also claim there is a lack of minorities in key decision-making positions.
But according to Jennifer Donelan, director of the media relations division for Prince George’s County police, the department hasn’t seen the complaint yet.
“We’ve had very vague rumors — no hard evidence, nothing to really sink our teeth into,” Donelan said.
Both associations also claim the department has been unwilling to engage in dialogue over reported issues.
Donelan said the department has been willing to listen and that back in October, when there were rumors of a letter, the department reached out to both associations.
“Our command made written attempts to try and find out what the concerns were so that we could address them, and we were told that they couldn’t talk to us,” Donelan said. The department also reached out to the DOJ back in October, Donelan added, and never heard back.
The HNLEA said 74 officers have signed onto the letter. The organization also referred WTOP to Bob Ross, president of the NAACP in Prince George’s County, who spoke on the association’s behalf.
Ross said he hopes to work with the police department to prevent a DOJ investigation all together. “Come up with something where they [the police department] can address the individual concerns and come up with a valid solution,” Ross added.
Ross is a member of a panel announced by the police department and the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 89 on Thursday. The group is being convened, according to the department, to look into agency practices regarding promotions and discipline.
Donelan said the panel was not put together because of the letter.
The DOJ has only said it has received correspondence from the HNLEA and has transferred the correspondence to the Civil Rights Division; it must decide whether or not it will investigate the case.
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