PRINCE GEORGE’S COUNTY, MD — The Chief of the Prince George’s County Police Department held a news conference on Thursday afternoon to address several photos that he believed are related to a complaint filed with the Department of Justice (DOJ) against his department.
Chief Hank Stawinski spoke at the news conference while flanked on one side with large print outs of those photos. He added he believed the photos to be related to the complaint as he has never seen it himself. He said after he was made aware of the complaint in November 2015 and had a letter sent to the DOJ the next day asking for more information, but has not gotten a response.
"We’ve been trying, diligently, to get information and address concerns and have been met with nothing,” said Stawinski. “Thus the letter and there’s others.”
Bob Ross, president of the Prince George’s County NAACP branch, spoke to DCW50 News at 10 and said a letter was first sent to the DOJ in April 2016. The DOJ inquired for more details in September and it became a complaint in October 2016. Ross said that since the complaint was filed, almost 100 officers have signed on and alleged racial discrimination and incidents in the department. He added there was a meeting yesterday with the DOJ and complainants, including the Hispanic National Law Enforcement Association National Capitol Region and the United Black Police Officers Association.
One photo shows what Stawinski said is a training dummy that had an African-American man’s face fastened to it. On the photo, someone had written “black face” with an arrow pointing to the face. At the bottom of the mannequin’s feet, there is a black wig. On the photo, someone had written “afro wig” with an arrow pointing to the wig.
Stawinski said the items were training aids from the department’s old facility and are no longer in use. He said the picture of the man on the mannequin was from a training target and the wig had been brought in by an African-American police officer so that it could be put on mannequins in training drills.
Stawinski added he believed the photo to have been taken sometime in late 2015.
"This photograph came to my personal attention on January 4, 2017 and we immediately initiated an investigation which has yielded this result,” added Stawinski.
The second photo was of a personalized license plate on a white officer’s personal car. The Maryland license plate read “GFYOBMA” and Stawinski said it was brought to his attention in April 2016.
"It was suggested to me that that meant “Good for you, Obama” and I rejected that. My opinion is that “G-F-Y” means one thing and one thing only” said Stawinski. He added that he understood the officer had first amendment rights, but said it did not reflect the values of the department and the car could not be parked on police department property. He said the owner removed the license plate within 72 hours after that.
The third and final photo, Stawinski said he was made aware of this week.
A filing cabinet in the Special Operations Division headquarters had a piece of tape with the words “Color Guard” on it. The word “Color” had been crossed out and "African American” was written beside it. Stawinski said the SOD commander discovered the tape and an investigation has been launched.
Stawinski added that he and the police union agreed last year to publish the outcomes of discipline cases like these.
“That leads directly to our on-going concern about general assertions with respect to practices, with respect to promotions, with respect to discipline,” said Stawinski.
DCW50 News at 10 reached out to the DOJ about the complaint allegations and were told “no comment” at this time. We also tried to reach representatives from the Hispanic National Law Enforcement Association National Capitol Region and the United Black Police Officers Association but have not heard back.