maryland police texts suggest “reinstating lynching”

December 13, 2018
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A civil rights group’s lawsuit of Maryland’s Prince George’s County and its police chief has exposed additional findings of race-based police corruption. Acting on behalf of several current and former officers, the lawsuit is accusing police officials of fostering an environment of racism and abuse by white officers, and retaliation against Black and Latinx officers who resisted the climate and called for accountability.

“Many of our officers have witnessed abuses of people of color in our community, only to be retaliated against once they have reported the incidents,” the Washington Post quoted Joseph Perez, president of the Hispanic National Law Enforcement Association. “We need to ensure that when there is doubt, officers are confident to bring forth inquiries without fear of retaliation.”

The suit goes as far as to claim that the county’s police chief, Henry Stawinski allowed this racist culture to fester and “thrive” in the department since his appointment two years ago. Among the findings are text messages sent between white officers in which they regularly used racial slurs and expressed a desire to “reinstate lynchings,” and dress training dummies in blackface and afro wigs.

Initially, Stawinski said that he would cooperate with the Justice Department’s investigation into the allegations of the department’s hiring practices, but now the department refuses to confirm or deny the investigation’s existence.

The response from Dana Vickers Shelley, executive director of the ACLU of Maryland, was damning. She said, “Any police department that fosters a culture of racial harassment and retaliation against officers of color within its ranks cannot hope to gain the community trust and support that is so necessary for achieving better public safety for everyone.” According to the Los Angeles Times, 64 percent of the county’s 900,000 plus residents are Black.