Three of the more than 120 Prince George's County police officers who have signed a complaint with the Department of Justice told News4 their department is a "racist and sexist community."
One former and two current officers, who asked to remain anonymous in fear of retaliation, said the closed Facebook page "PGPD Good Ole Boys (and girls)" is an example of the discrimination. Its description says, “Men and women who … busted some heads to settle PG County.”
“It’s racist, unfair and also a sexist community to work for,” one officer said.
“Within the last five years, I’ve never seen the Prince George’s County Police Department so separated … by race, by sex, by discipline,” an officer said. “Nobody’s given the exact same punishment for the exact same cause.”
“If I’m wrong, I want the same punishment,” an officer said. “If I’m right, I want the same accolades. We just wanted to be treated fair.”
The complaint also alleges unequal opportunities for men and women of color.
“We do have minority women of rank, but they’re pushing paper clips and getting paper cuts,” an officer said.
In February 2017, News4 reported some of what was included in the complaint, including a training dummy with an Afro wig and a picture of a black man’s face taped to it. It also included an internal affairs sergeant’s personal license plate that was banned by the state for its offensive reference to former President Barack Obama.
"I won't stand for it," Chief Hank Stawinski said at a news conference about the complaint in October. "I will not tolerate an unfair work environment I will not tolerate an injustice."
“The issue that was brought out last year in reference to the lockers, the dummies in training, and the chief spoke out — was it investigated?” an officer asked. “Was anyone ever charged? What has become of that investigation?”
The three officers who spoke to News4 said they’ve taken their concerns to the chief and received no response.
“If you ask for a meeting with the chief, you won’t even get it,” one said.
Stawinski did create a fairness and equity panel for officers and residents to address the concerns believe to be in the DOJ complaint, but that panel hasn’t met since December, according to some of the officers on it.
“What happens in your house eventually spills out into the street,” one officer said.
In the past, the department was under federal oversight for almost a decade because of excessive force allegations, including shootings and dog attacks.
While the department’s relationship with the community has improved, some officers say conditions within the department have gotten worse.
“We can’t come to work being afraid of our counterparts or with the officers that we work with,” one said. “We have to deal with the public. We’re here to protect and serve the community but we have to go to work and protect ourselves from the individuals that we work with.”
Stawinski issued this statement to News4:
"We are hopeful these officers also shared their concerns either through our ongoing Equality for Promotions, Discipline, and Practices Panel which has met several times, or filed an EEO, if applicable, or filed grievances with the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 89, the union which represents the 1700 sworn members of the PGPD, so that we as an agency can act upon their concerns. If they have not shared such specifics, we hope they change their minds and bring their specific concerns to the Department.
"We take any allegation of racial discrimination very seriously. We have a proven track record of transparency and accountability as we continuously take proactive measures to ensure a fair and equal working environment for all."
The department said it took the following actions before the announcement of the DOJ review in October:
- Proactively established ongoing Equality for Promotions, Discipline and Practices Panel for officers to discuss their concerns
- Proactively publish quarterly Equal Employment Office department-wide emails instructing officers on how to file EEO complaints
- Deputy Chief's Forum On Promotional Practices held for all officers to discuss concerns
- Proactively publish quarterly agency-wide discipline reports emailed to entire department with names redacted due to personnel law requirements
- In October of 2017, delivered all requested documents to the DOJ without redaction or delay as it continues its review