This article about 46 Prince George's County police officers being suspended or placed on administrative duty incorrectly said that a police trial board had recommended discipline short of firing for an officer whose pursuit of a motorcyclist on the Capital Beltway sparked a fatal eight-car pileup. The trial board recommended termination as a possible form of discipline. The article also incorrectly said that Police Chief Roberto L. Hylton had fired 18 officers or civilian employees for reasons that included drug use and sexual assault. Some of those people resigned or retired before they could be disciplined.
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46 Prince George's County officers suspended or on administrative duty
"Just like any other citizen, I think these officers are entitled to due process," he said. "Like any corporation, you may have a few bad apples, and we deal with them. . . . I think you have to allow the process to play out before you start condemning anyone."
Many officers have criticized Hylton, accusing him of making early judgments. They say it has negatively affected morale.
For example, Hylton fired an officer whose pursuit of a motorcyclist on the Capital Beltway sparked a fatal eight-car pileup. A judge had thrown out the criminal case against the officer, and a police trial board had recommended discipline short of firing, authorities said.
Similarly, when an officer moonlighting as a security guard was accused of punching a college student at a party at a Beltsville warehouse, Hylton suspended not just the officer accused of violence but also four others who might have witnessed something and not reported it.
In that case, Hylton said he wanted to send a "clear-cut message" about reporting misconduct.
But he acknowledged that he has acted more aggressively when it comes to police wrongdoing than other chiefs have, suspending or firing officers and offering his candid opinions to reporters. He said doing so maintains the department's "credibility" with residents - proving to them that the department can police itself.
"One or two individuals are not bigger than the entire police department, so you cannot allow one or two individuals to taint the entire integrity of this force," Hylton said. "It's not about popularity . . . it's about doing the right thing."
Internal department records show that Hylton has fired 18 officers or civilian employees for reasons that include drug use and sexual assault.
But sometimes, Canales said, Hylton has had to recall suspensions soon after he issued them.
Canales also said that the number of suspensions might create staffing shortages and that he wished internal affairs would move more quickly to resolve officers' cases. Hylton said the number of suspensions and administrative duty assignments would translate to about one officer being gone from each of the county's 60 patrol squads.
Hylton's discipline efforts have won him broad community support. Recently, a group calling itself the Coalition of Prince George's County Organizations and Leaders gathered outside County Executive-elect Rushern L. Baker III's transition headquarters in Largo to urge that Hylton be retained as police chief.
The coalition includes the Hispanic National Law Enforcement Association, Templeton Knolls Civic Association, the Prince George's County Taxi Worker Alliance and CASA of Maryland.
Its support came just days after federal authorities arrested three officers as part of a broad corruption probe in the county. Hylton was among the most vocal public critics of the officers on the day they were arrested - further proof, he said, that he is part of the solution, not the problem.
"Yes, we may have that list [of disciplined officers] that you see, but Roberto Hylton was not the person who was responsible for the conduct of these employees," Hylton said. "I was doing something about it."