Citing racism allegations, Prince George’s County community organizations and activists called for the removal of top county police officers at a press conference hosted by the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland on Tuesday.
Activists have five demands, calling for transparency and a new department administration, among other things. The demands come after the release of an unredacted report — referred to as the Graham report — that is part of an ongoing lawsuit filed by current and former officers against the Prince George’s County Police Department.
Michael Graham, former senior officer with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office, prepared the report, which details numerous instances of alleged racist conduct by white officers in the county police department. The report also highlights allegations of retaliation against officers of color who reported misconduct.
Nikki Owens, whose cousin William Green was shot by a county police officer in January 2020, presented the demands. County police Cpl. Michael Owen shot and killed Green while Green was sitting in a police car in handcuffs.
“I would like for the public to understand that there are police officers that are out there that are trying to take a stand, and we need to take a stand with them,” Owens said.
The group’s first demand calls for county police to replace all of the department’s current leadership, including interim Police Chief Hector Velez, Commander Kathleen Mills and Chief Administrative Officer for Public Safety Mark Magaw, Owens said.
Activists are also calling for a community-led process to select the new chief.
[Prince George’s County Police chief resigns after allegations of racism in the department]
“We want to see an executive director that comes out of this police reform community, out of here in Prince George’s County or nationally,” said Jonathan Hutto of the Prince George’s People’s Coalition.
The second demand emphasizes accountability from the county, which Owens said hid details of the Graham Report and spent millions of taxpayer dollars to defend the police conduct. Those resources should be used to address the discrimination that had been brought to light in the lawsuit, Owens added.
“You’re taxpayers,” Tamara McKinney of Community Justice and Concerned Citizens for Bail Reform told Prince Georgians. “They work for us, we don’t work for them.”
Representatives from community groups and activists called to empower the Prince George’s Citizen Complaint Oversight Panel to impose discipline and have members of the panel be nominated through a community-based process representative of each of the county districts.
Ashanti Martinez of CASA spoke to this demand, recalling incidents of racial profiling of Latino youth at the hands of Prince George’s County police, including one instance in Langley Park. There was no investigation into the matter, according to the Graham report.
“It’s clear that better community oversight of complaints is needed,” Martinez said.
[Prince George’s County Police suspends three officers amid investigation on use of force]
The fourth demand calls for the termination and prosecution of officers who have committed perjury and cannot testify in court or who have records of abusing people in marginalized groups.
The fifth and final demand calls for transparency from the department by posting trial board hearings of officer misconduct online and making them live and accessible to the public.
These demands — crafted by local activists and individuals who have lost family members to police brutality in the county — also called upon Maryland legislators. If lawmakers ignore the calls for reform and action, speakers on the call explained what that could mean for politicians in upcoming elections.
“Our leaders down in Annapolis, we have election time that’s going to roll around again. If you are still not doing the work of the community, it is time for you to go as well,” McKinney said.
Tracy Shand, whose brother, Leonard Shand, was shot and killed by police in Hyattsville in 2019, asked the county’s officials and Maryland senators and delegates what the next move is, as advocates for reform are following all their procedures and laws. But officials aren’t listening to them, Shand said.
“They’re killing us, brutalizing us, treating us like we’re not even human,” Shand said. “And I’m here to tell you we are human.”