Following more than 70 Black and Hispanic officers filing a complaint with the Department of Justice, a panel was formed by Prince George’s County Police Department and the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) Lodge 89 to review the department’s promotional systems, disciplinary policies, and other practices.

Prince George’s County Police Chief Henry Stawinski said he wants to get to the bottom of the rumors of discontent in his department.  (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Prince George’s County Police Chief Henry Stawinski said he wants to get to the bottom of the rumors of discontent in his department. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Police Chief Henry Stawinski III formed the panel to get to the bottom of “vague rumors and generalizations” of discontent within the department, according to Jennifer Donelan, a spokeswoman for the county police. “The chief is trying to get facts so that if structural issues exist, we can address them and make the necessary changes,” Donelan said. “If this panel finds this department has structural issues, we’re going to deal with that. The problem we have had until this moment is a lack of information.”

The United Black Police Officers Association and the Hispanic National Law Enforcement Association filed a joint complaint with the DOJ on Oct. 31, asking it to investigate allegations of misconduct with minority complainants, disparities in discipline against minority officers when compared to White officers, as well as claims of flagrant discrimination and retaliatory behavior, including the denial of promotions and transfers to Black and Hispanic officers.

“We’re getting some headway, but there’s still a long way to go,” said Bob Ross, president of the NAACP in Prince George’s County, who is also the spokesman for the group waging the complainants. “The training of cops, managers, supervisors about sensitivity and race issues would create a better work environment,”

The DOJ has received the correspondence and referred it to the Civil Rights Division for a response, a DOJ spokeswoman told the AFRO via email. She declined to comment further.

Meanwhile, the panel has become an urgent priority for the police chief, whom Donelan said is committed to diversity, fair treatment of people, and transparency.

The panel’s co-chairs will be the police department’s inspector general Carlos Acosta, who is Hispanic, and a senior member from Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) Lodge 89, the collective bargaining unit representing more than 1,700 sworn officers. The rest of the members will include representatives from the county’s Human Relations Commission, its Clerk of the Circuit Court, its County Civilian Complaint Oversight Panel, its Office of Law, the University of Maryland, and the police union.  Donelan said the panel will include other members of the minority population.

“We’re anxious to get this going and are really looking forward to anything that the panel finds, whether it’s positive or negative,” said John Teletchea, president of FOP #89. “If there are issues that need to be addressed, we need to find out about them as soon as possible and correct any negative actions and build in a positive direction for the future.”