A Maryland NAACP report on police brutality terms the Prince George's County police department the "most improved" and lists Baltimore police as among the worst, the report's author said yesterday.
A committee of the state NAACP commended Prince George's County for establishing a citizen panel to review complaints of excessive force against police officers, but found that the department "still has a long way to go," said Charles Jerome Ware, NAACP state general counsel and author of the report.
NAACP officials said that the report, scheduled for release later this week, is based on statistics collected from the Justice Department and local police departments. Some departments, however, did not supply requested information, Ware said.
The NAACP also considered individual incidents of alleged excessive force in forming its opinions, said the Rev. John L. Wright, who is president of the Maryland state conference of branches of the NAACP.
"Prince George's County had reached rock bottom," Ware said. "But one reason for hope is the citizen oversight panel. They should be given credit for seeking the input of the community."
The report "by no means is indication that Prince George's County is among the best" departments in the state, Ware said.
Prince George's County Executive Parris N. Glendening said that officials are "somewhere between happy and ecstatic" with the NAACP's findings. Glendening formed the panel in response to public outcry after the May 1989 death of a Ghanaian native during a fight with county police. The state prosecutor eventually determined that Gregory Habib died accidentally when four officers fell on top of him.
"Certainly, we have a lot of work to do," said Police Chief David B. Mitchell, "but this is positive reinforcement that we're on the right track."
Mitchell noted that complaints against the department of excessive force have fallen by 14 percent since last year. Complaints also were down from 1988 to 1989, dropping from 62 complaints to 50, Mitchell said.
According to Ware, the NAACP's second annual report found only a slight statewide increase in brutality complaints in 1989 and the first half of 1990, noting however that many of the injuries that had triggered those complaints were more severe than in previous years. The report cited the City of Baltimore, Baltimore County, Anne Arundel County and Howard County as the worst jurisdictions.
Wright said Baltimore City earned a "worst" designation in part because of a scuffle with police in which an NAACP legal officer, who was not arrested or charged, incurred three broken bones. Baltimore City Police spokesman Dennis Hill said that the incident is under investigation. Hill said he has not seen the report.
Sgt. Gary Gardner, a Howard County police spokesman, called the NAACP report the "same rhetoric we've seen before," and said it offered no evidence to support its claims. Gardner said Howard County had received 15 allegations of brutality in the first six months of 1990, finding all but four, which are still open, unfounded or not sustained.
Staff writer Dan Beyers contributed to this report.