Prince George's, Md., deputy police chief suspended after wife's allegations

By Matt Zapotosky
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 1, 2010

Prince George's County police have suspended a deputy chief after he was accused of taking a "closed fist" swing at his wife and threatening to lock her out of the couple's Beltsville home, according to police and court records.

Deputy Chief Gary Cunningham, who heads the bureau of administration, was suspended Tuesday, a day after his wife obtained a temporary protective order against him, records show.

Cunningham was banned from entering nonpublic areas of any police facility, which is typical for suspended officers. Records show that he was also ordered to turn over any firearms, which is typical of protective orders. He will be paid during his suspension.

Police Chief Roberto L. Hylton said Cunningham was suspended because "there's an allegation involving a domestic issue," but Hylton declined to provide details because the investigation is ongoing. It is unusual for county police to suspend a deputy chief. Cunningham is one of only four deputy chiefs.

"It's a discretionary suspension that we do with all of our employees that are involved in some type of allegations involving domestics," Hylton said. "From my perspective, he's a very good police officer [who] has performed in a very exemplary manner, but, of course, we are going to be objective and conduct an investigation, like we do for everyone else."

On Monday, Cunningham's wife, Denise Cunningham, obtained a temporary protective order barring her husband from their home. She wrote in her petition that Gary Cunningham "swung at me with a closed fist but I ducked to avoid being hit." Denise Cunningham also accused her husband of calling her names, yelling at her 7-year-old daughter and threatening to lock her out of the house.

Gary Cunningham declined to comment on the suspension. "It's a personal matter," he said.

Online court records show that he filed a petition for protection against his wife Wednesday but that his petition was denied. Denise Cunningham did not return a phone message seeking comment.

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