Racism is still a problem in the Prince George's County police force, but the police chief and the county executive have done a good job trying to alleviate it, according to the community relations division of the Maryland Commission on Human Relations.
In a report, the community relations unit praised Chief John W. Rhoads and was critical of the county's police union and Human Relations Commission.
The report recommends that the police department "modify its present policy of absolutely defending an officer charged with misconduct in initial press releases so that subsequent police investigations of those charges gain some community credibility."
It also recommends that if the full state human relations commission elects to hold a hearing on the county police department it should consider suggesting amendments to the state's Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights, which protects police officers when complaints are lodged against them.
The examination of the country force was requested by the state commission following fatal shootings early this year of unarmed black suspects by white Prince George's police officers.
The report drew these conclusions:
Rhoads and County Executive Winfield M. Kelly Jr. have done a good job in trying to combat racism in the department, integrating the force and encouraging community relations projects among the officers.
Racism is still a problem. The report quotes Rhoads as saying the problems is not as serious as some claim, but "there is some racism." The department is 91 percent white.
Individual's complaints of brutality by police officers have little chance of succeeding.
The country Human Relations Commission is little more than a rubber stamp for the county police union, the Fraternal Order of Police. Statistics are cited showing that the commission rarely overrules an innocent finding by internal police investigators.
None of those affected by the report reacted to it with much enthusiasm yesterday.
Kelly said he had "mixed emotions" about it. "I'm pleased to see that the commission recognized the efforts made by us and by John Rhoads," he said.
"But I'm disappointed in their findings that the county's Human Relations Commission is a rubber stamp for the Fraternal Order of Police . . . I think we have a strong Human Relations Commission."
William A. Welch Sr., executive director of the county Human Relations Commission, said, "No one with a serious mind would accept the view that we're a rubber stamp for the FOP. We often have the same information they do so we might draw the same conclusions. But we've just been in court against them. Reports are supposed to be unemotional. I don't think that's completely true of this one."
Laney Hester, FOP president, called the report "a colossal waste of tax dollars. They could have found out what they foundout with three phone calls. They re just trying to justify their existence."