The Department of Justice launched an investigation Tuesday into the Prince George’s County Police Department's employment practices.
The complaint, which was made by two officers' group representing 111 officers, alleges disparities in department promotion and discipline practices between white officers and those that are Hispanic or African American.
Leaders for the two groups declined to give reporters examples and did not provide a copy of their complaint to the Department of Justice.
The Prince George’s County police department is about 43 percent African-American with a similar number of white officers. The balance are from Hispanic or other backgrounds. Fifteen percent are women.
Police Chief Hank Stawinski released a letter addressing the claims of discrimination and his efforts to cooperate with the investigation.
A letter to our community from Chief Hank Stawinski. https://t.co/TkOQmamHTp— PGPDNEWS (@PGPDNews) October 3, 2017
He released the following letter Tuesday:
To the Community of Prince George's County,
Since the beginning of my tenure as Chief of Police I have provided specific facts regarding matters that impact you as soon as I have them. I am writing today to inform you that the United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division has chosen to initiate a pattern and practice investigation into allegations of discrimination against Hispanics and African Americans in violation of Title VII with respect to their employment in sworn positions on our police department. I was notified of this on Saturday, September 30, 2017.
Upon my appointment as Chief of Police in January of 2016, I accepted the greatest amount of responsibility for this institution, and the men and women who serve, that any individual can hold. I and the Department will cooperate fully and completely with this investigation and will provide any and all requested information to the Civil Rights Division without reservation.
I was informed on October 24, 2016 that a complaint had been filed with the Department of Justice in March of 2016. On October 25, 2016 a letter requesting information and offering cooperation was written to the Department of Justice at my direction and hand carried to the Civil Rights Division. In the months that followed, questions about this complaint were repeatedly directed to me. To demonstrate our good faith efforts to the community and in keeping with my commitment to transparency, on February 9, 2017 I directed the Department’s media relations director to release to the public the first letter to the Department of Justice dated October 25, 2016. A second letter was sent to the Department of Justice on May 18, 2017. As of today’s date, neither I nor the Department has ever been provided with the complaint. I do not fault the Department of Justice for this. I took this matter very seriously and I sought to take action on your behalf independent of the complaint. In order to gather facts and understand perceptions that would inform my decision making, I immediately had personal conversations and held meetings with many of you who are reading this. I then approached the Fraternal Order of Police and together we did two specific things.
First, on April 7, 2017 we jointly convened the Panel for Promotions, Discipline, & Practices. As of today it has met 8 times. It was deliberately composed of sworn and retired members of the Department as well as academics, county officials, and community members from outside the Department representing all points of view. The goal of the Panel is to obtain facts and gain insights into perceptions about the Department and then provide specific guidance to me to correct issues identified during the process. Second, on June 1, 2017 we began publishing the outcomes of internal disciplinary cases quarterly so that all members of the Department would know the results and to dispel perceptions that “nothing was done.” Both initiatives will continue.
I have the highest expectations of this institution and of all who serve it. I know very well the toll that this profession takes on you who serve. I have acted only to build trust in the Prince George’s County Police Department. If it is demonstrated that structures or practices of this institution negatively impact any of you without cause, I will end them. I welcome this new opportunity to further advance this work.
Yours Very Respectfully,
Hank Stawinski, Chief of Police
October 3, 2017