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.
Pr. George's police woes wider than U.S. probe
Monday, November 29, 2010
The three Prince George's County police officers arrested as part of the sweeping federal investigation into corruption in the county represent only a fraction of those accused of wrongdoing, according to police officials and internal department records.
Those recent federal indictments charging two officers with protecting a black-market cigarette and alcohol operation and a third with drug dealing have cast an unwanted spotlight on the department.
According to internal police documents obtained by The Washington Post, at least 46 Prince George's officers are either suspended or assigned to administrative duties for misconduct or violations. In at least 19 of those cases, investigators have reason to think the officers committed a crime, according to police officials and the documents. Only three of these cases are known to have a direct relationship to the federal probe that led to the arrest this month of County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D).
Prince George's Police Chief Roberto L. Hylton said the figures show that he has been aggressive in disciplining employees who misstep - punishing wrongdoers harshly and speaking with reporters candidly. He did not have precise numbers but said the 46 cases marked an increase over previous years.
The effort seems to have won him broad community support, although it might have cost him points inside the department.
"If people want to . . . say that I'm not a good chief because I'm holding people accountable for misconduct and trying to eradicate the bad seeds out of this police department, I'll take that as a badge of honor," Hylton said. "I'm not backing down from that whatsoever."
At least nine others are suspected of criminal wrongdoing that includes sexual assault and theft, although it remains unclear how strong the evidence against them is, records show. In some cases, records show only that the officer is accused of unspecified "criminal misconduct."
Even many of the noncriminal allegations are serious. At least seven officers are either suspended or on administrative duty because of an allegation of excessive use of force, and six of them were recorded on tape, records show. Another officer did not properly search a suspect, and authorities found a gun on the suspect when he arrived at jail, according to officials and records.
Hylton said that since he took over as chief, he has revamped the police department's internal affairs division and started reviewing all major cases himself.
Recently, he initiated a review of off-duty jobs worked by county officers. He also has purchased computer software that will help him monitor discipline cases from start to finish. That will ensure, he said, that officers don't avoid discipline because of procedural errors or inaction by commanders.
Vince Canales, president of the county's Fraternal Order of Police chapter, acknowledged that the number of officers suspended or on administrative duty "does sound very high," even for a force of about 1,500. But he said most of the allegations against the officers are unproved.