The Maryland Human Relations Commission, prompted in part by the recent fatal shootings of two unarmed suspects by Prince George's County policemen, has quietly launched an investigation of the police department.
Commission executive director Samuel Lloyd confirmed that the commission was "inquiring about the issue of police-community relations" in the county.
The commission has asked the police department for its records of citizen complaints against officers and for information about its recruitment and assignment procedures, according to police Lt. Elmer Tippett.
Lloyd said that community leaders also are being sent questionnaires about police-community relations to help the commission decide whether to hold public hearings on the subject.
Last April 4, the department brought administrative charges against Officer Lester J. Bethel in connection with the fatal shooting in January of an unarmed burglary suspect. A hearing on those charges is scheduled for June 1.
That shooting was the second within a month in which a white Prince George's County police officer fatally shot an unarmed black suspect.
Grand juries investigated both shootings, but declined to bring criminal charges against either officer.
Commission director Lloyd refused to discuss the scope of the investigation, saying it was too early "to make it a matter of public attention."
But an aide to County Executive Winfield Kelly said the commission "was papering" the county with questionnaires.
"We've been going around on this issue ourselves," said Kelly aide John Lally, "but as far it as we're concerned it's great. Let them (the state commission) investigate away."