Prince George's Public Defender Believes Officers' Discrimination Lawsuit Could Lead to Exonerations

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The Office of the Public Defender in Prince George's County believes a federal lawsuit filed by some Prince George's County police officers against their department may impact past and ongoing court cases.

The public defender has filed a motion asking that a heavily redacted report filed as part of the lawsuit be unredacted and made public. As it stands, only those directly connected to the lawsuit can see the full report. The report details claims of police misconduct and racial discrimination by the Prince George's County Police Department.

District Public Defender Keith Lotridge said he hopes this could lead to the exoneration of some of the office's clients.

The police department redacted most of the independent report's pages, concealing details, including officers' names. Lotridge wants it all made public.

"We believe there is unequivocally information on specific officers, specific incidents that should be disclosed right now," Lotridge said. "It should have been disclosed last week; it should have been disclosed last month; it should have been disclosed years ago."

The report was compiled by independent investigator Michael Graham at the request of officers who are suing the police department for discrimination. As part of the suit, the Prince George's County Police Department had to submit depositions, department files and records.

Hours after the first version of the report was released in June, then-Chief Hank Stawinski resigned from the department.

"If even half of these allegations that are public are true, there is a serious problem with the Prince George's County Police Department, and I think it's entirely understandable that it led to the resignation of Chief Stawinski," said Nicolas Riley, senior counsel with the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection.

Riley, the attorney who filed the motion, says the public has a First Amendment right to see the full report.

"That report discusses a wide number of incidents of police misconduct by PGPD officers who are actively involved in prosecuting public defender clients right now," he said.

"Is this the tip of the iceberg? I think that's an understatement," Lotridge said. "There's historical data that things have been going on for a very long time, and historically, in this office, in the public defender's office, we have never gotten information about bad police, bad police actions."

The public defender's office is not alone in asking that that report be unredacted. A number of other organizations have also filed similar requests, including the Prince George's County chapter of the NAACP.

Attorneys for Prince George's County say any request for information to be released will be handled in court.

In a previous statement, that office said, "Mr. Graham's statistics are taken from the Department's 'IA Pro' case management system, and it seems he has misunderstood and misused this system and his conclusions we believe are inaccurate. Our response to this and other aspects of the Graham report will be addressed by our experts soon."

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