Prince George’s Police Chief Resigns Amid Allegations of Systemic Racism in Department
Prince George’s County’s chief of police has resigned after the ACLU held a press conference attacking the department’s record on racial discrimination.
County Executive Angela Alsobrooks announced she accepted the resignation of Chief Hank Stawinski, effective immediately.
The resignation comes as the NAACP was considering a vote of no confidence in the chief Thursday evening.
Officers from the department joined with police groups to call out what they call systemic racism within the department. One civil rights group is called for Stawinski to step down.
An explosive new report filed in federal court Thursday alleges mistreatment of Black and brown Prince George’s County Police Department officers, a failure to fairly investigate allegations and a failure to support whistleblowers.
“I think this was a good first step, and I still think that there is a lot of work that needs to be done,” said former Prince George’s County police captain Joe Perez about Stawinski’s resignation.
In 2018, Perez challenged the department’s efforts to demote him, claiming it was retaliation for his complaints about unfair disciplinary practices within the department.
“It’s only a small percentage of officers, but if you continue covering for them, you know, and not taking definitive action in the beginning, it just festers and emboldens people to do more and more until you have a George Floyd,” he said.
The 94-page report by a law enforcement veteran includes witness testimony, evidence naming officers and accounts of multiple incidents of harassment and discrimination. Many details were heavily redacted by the county.
“The report that was filed today proves that there are ingrained, widespread patterns of discrimination and racism that permeate the entire department,” said Joanna Wasik of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs.
The report says there were incidents Stawinski was aware of but failed to investigate.
“If we cannot resolve the racism among our ranks internally, we will never, never do it within the communities that we serve,” said Neill Franklin, executive director of the Law Enforcement Action Partnership.
The police department did not immediately comment on the report.
News4 exclusively interviewed a panel of PGPD officers alleging racial disparity in the department in 2018. The department enacted a mandatory implicit bias training course in conjunction with the University of Maryland to help address those issues. News4 exclusively reported on officers walking out of that class.
Today, the professor who helped create the class spoke out for the first time.
“We have one of the most innovative police decision-making programs in the United States based on our corporate sponsorships, and we gave that program to Prince George’s County, and they chose not to utilize it,” sociology Professor Rashawn Ray said.
Many officers who participated in the press conference signed on to a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into the department.
Community activist Kema Harris questioned the county’s response to that investigation.
“The county, period, pays more money to protect the chief against officers who are claiming discrimination when you would think they would protect the officers who are speaking up,” said Harris, cofounder of the Community Justice Coalition.
Officers said they hope the report will create changes that protect them and the community they serve.
“I’m speaking for officers who are afraid to speak up, that are intimidated,” Lt. Sonya Lancaster said.
An interim police chief is expected to be named Friday.