PALMER PARK, MD. (WUSA9) - The U.S. Department of Justice has launched an investigation of hiring, promotion and discipline practices inside the Prince George's County Police Department after complaints made by two officer groups representing Latino and African American officers.
The officers' complaint to the DOJ has not been made public. The officers will not comment on specific examples.
WUSA9 has assembled some of the key facts about the situation that are known:
- The complaint alleging Hispanic and African American police officers are treated unfairly in promotion and internal discipline is at least 300 pages long.
- It was filed by two groups representing minority police officers who claim they are speaking for at least 111 members. The groups include the Hispanic National Law Enforcement Association and a local chapter of The United Black Police Officers Association. They are led by Capt. Joe Perez and officer Thomas Boone.
- The Prince George's County NAACP, which has been involved in discussions with the department says the number of specific complaints forwarded to the Justice Department has grown from 55 to more than 100 since February, according to Prince George's chapter president Bob Ross.
- One of the leaders of the minority officer groups, Joe Perez, was promoted to Captain in 2017 and is a former member of the department's Internal Affairs division, responsible for investigating wrongdoing inside the department.
- The demographic breakdown of the police department is 43 percent African American, 45 percent white, 12 percent Latino/Asian and 15 percent female, according to Chief Hank Stawinski.
Notes: The NAACP reports it has seen a dramatic drop in community complaints about police misconduct since 2011, going from several complaints a month to fewer than three complaints in the last six months, according to Ross.
"Public safety is doing well, it's internal issues that may now be the challenge," Ross said.
Stawinski has appointed a community panel to independently examine hiring, promotion and discipline practices. The groups have met eight times since February 2017. The panel has not made any report to the public so far.
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