PRINCE GEORGE’S COUNTY, Md. -- Prince George’s County is being slapped with a lawsuit from some of its own officers.
Nearly one dozen black and Latino officers claim the Prince George’s County Police Department is fostering an environment of racial discrimination and retaliation.
Lawyers claim the officers who came forward are not just a couple of bad apples with an ax to grind but that this is about a systemic issue that has existed for years.
The allegations were all spelled out in the 65-page lawsuit.
Several Prince George’s County Police officers spoke out on Wednesday about, what they called, a culture of racist police practices, discrimination, and retaliation.
“We are talking about the fact that there are very few officers of color in the ranks – the upper ranks of the police department, and, also that officers of color are disciplined at a much higher in severe rate then white officers,” Dennis Corkery, with the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, said.
Corkery is one of the attorneys backing 11 officers, the Hispanic National Law Enforcement Association, and the United Black Police Officers Association in the lawsuit against Prince George’s County, Police Chief Henry Stawinski, and other top brass in the police department.
“If the police department can’t even treat its officers of color right, it really speaks to how they view the community as a whole,” Corkery told WUSA9.
Corkery explained minority officers were disciplined or retaliated against after speaking out when they saw white officers breaking the rules or engaging in biased policing.
The lawsuit claims some white officers have spat out racial slurs, circulated offensive pictures depicting people of color, and abused their power against civilians – including using brutal force.
The complaint alleges that when officers speak out about the alleged behavior they’re transferred, demoted, or retaliated against in other ways.
“There have been situations where officers have been asked to change things internal affairs reports, and when they refused to do so, they’ve been retaliated against,” Corkery gave an example.
In the lawsuit, the officers also claim Chief Stawinski and other top brass officers foster the alleged behavior and have not done anything to fix it.
“These are officers who were speaking up when they saw the community being abused,” Corkery told WUSA9. “Instead of being rewarded for speaking out on behalf of those that they’re serving, they were punished.”
Attorneys are seeing monetary damages for back pay and officers’ suffering and calling for new policies and institutional reforms.
PGPD did not have a comment on the lawsuit Wednesday afternoon.