Maryland county commits to change after lawsuit settlement
UPPER MARLBORO, Md. (AP) — A $2.3 million payment to a group of Black and Latino police officers to settle their workplace discrimination lawsuit against a Maryland police department is the latest effort toward reforms within the department, a county official said Thursday.
Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks said she will make sure that the future actions of the Prince George’s County Police Department don’t support bad behavior.
“Moving forward, I will continue to do the work needed to ensure that our culture and policies do not support bad actors or bad behavior,” Alsobrooks said during a news conference. “And we will also make sure that everyone in this government knows that discrimination and bias are not acceptable in our police department or any other agency.”
The plaintiffs, members of the Hispanic National Law Enforcement Association and the United Black Police Officers Association, accused police officials of condoning racist, abusive behavior by white officers and retaliating against Black and Hispanic officers who complained about misconduct.
The lawsuit also said the county’s police chief at the time, Henry Stawinski, allowed racism to “thrive” in his department. Stawinski resigned last year.
“The department you see, I submit to you, is not the department of a year and a half ago,” Alsobrooks said. “This settlement allows us to continue the path that we are already on of reforming this department.
“What I can assure you is this: the internal culture that was the subject of this lawsuit, which took decades to create, is one that will end with this administration,” she said.
The Washington Post reported this week that the settlement includes the implementation of new and updated policies to make the promotional process more fair, clearly state possible punishments for those who engage in racist or discriminatory conduct and prohibit officers from using race, ethnicity or national origin to make policing decisions. One revised policy will clarify the “severe discipline” supervisors are subject to if they do not properly fulfill their duties during use-of-force reviews.
Additionally, a new Equal Employment Opportunity policy that covers anti-discrimination, anti-retaliation and bias-free policing will address the timeliness and resolution of investigations into complaints and require additional training for officers and supervisors.
Prince George’s County abuts the nation’s capital to the east. As of 2020, more than 64% of the county’s more than 900,000 residents are Black, while slightly more than 27% of residents are white and 19% are Hispanic. Whites account for 47% of the department’s officers, with Blacks accounting for nearly 43%, the lawsuit said.