January 6, 2013

The Dec. 29 editorial “Police impunity in Pr. George’s,” regarding an incident that occurred nearly three years ago in College Park, characterized the evening of March 3, 2010, as “rowdy street celebrations” by students at the University of Maryland that resulted in a “conspiracy of silence and coverup” by Prince George’s County police officers.

This is effective prose that stirs emotions, yet it is exaggerated and misleading.

After a decade of off-campus rioting that in April 2011 earned Maryland’s flagship university GQ magazine’s distinction as the fifth-worst fan base in the nation, this particular post-athletic-contest behavior has served to define a future of shared responsibility for our police department and the University of Maryland. It’s a shame it took such a disastrous night to do it.

What happened to John J. McKenna was wrong. The involved police officers were identified, indicted and prosecuted. Our internal affairs detectives worked tirelessly with the State’s Attorney’s Office in the prosecution before a jury of Prince George’s residents.

Over the past two years, we have taken the unprecedented steps of hiring a former Justice Department prosecutor as our inspector general for discipline and training oversight and a veteran local television reporter to ensure transparency with the media and our residents.

Our strategy and training to handle civil disturbances have been completely overhauled to include dramatically enhanced command and supervisory participation, immediate after-action reviews of social and other media sites, equipment that readily identifies each police officer, on-scene internal affairs detectives to ensure compliance with directives, roll call and deployment videotaping, and a trained prisoner processing team.

The Prince George’s Police Department’s resolve to never again repeat the mistakes of the past has been met by similar efforts by the university’s president, athletic director and police chief. All of these individuals are new to the campus since the McKenna incident occurred.

Our shared commitment of mutual accountability is anything but indifferent.

Mark A. Magaw, Palmer Park

The writer is chief of the Prince George’s County Police Department.