Prince George's County Executive Parris N. Glendening yesterday appointed seven people, including a minister, two lawyers and a retiring state delegate, to a panel commissioned this year to review complaints of excessive force by police officers.
The appointments to the Citizen Complaint Oversight Panel, created in July by the County Council, bring an additional and long-sought level of civilian review to the police complaint procedure.
In announcing the appointments, Glendening hailed the panel as a step toward removing the historic mistrust between segments of the community and the police department.
"I see the panel . . . as a key part in furthering our effort to improve relationships between the police and the community," Glendening said.
The panel was one of the foremost recommendations of a commission appointed last year by Glendening to study the police department in the wake of the death of a Ghanaian citizen during an arrest by four white officers. The police ultimately were exonerated by the state prosecutor, who determined that Gregory Habib died accidentally when two officers fell on top of him.
The death ignited weeks of acrimonious protest and exposed undercurrents of tension between the police department and representatives of the black community who charged that the agency was not aggressive in investigating complaints of excessive force.
The panel's chief purpose is to review investigations already completed by the police department's Internal Affairs Division and by the county Human Relations Commission and to comment on the objectivity and thoroughness of those investigations. The panel can disagree with the investigations or recommend further study, but it has no power to compel action by the police chief or county executive.
The panel also has no independent investigative powers and cannot subpoena or question witnesses; neither can it recommend discipline to the police chief in matters where fault is found. Panel members will be paid $50 an hour to a maximum of $10,000 a year.
Critics, including representatives of the county branch of the NAACP, noting the panel's limited power, have called it a sham and refused to participate in the process.
However, representatives of the state NAACP, surveying allegations of police brutality throughout Maryland, recently labeled Prince George's County the "most improved" jurisdiction because of the county's willingness to provide civilian oversight of police procedures.
Glendening said that the panelists, five blacks and two whites, were chosen to "reflect the diversity of the community."
The members are the Rev. Robert Williams, pastor of St. Paul's Baptist Church in Suitland, chairman; Alfred Haynes, a retired Foreign Service officer and Mitchellville community activist; Val Kaplan, a businesswoman and former personnel management specialist with the Federal Trade Commission; Carolyn Howard, a retiring state delegate from the 24th District; Clyde Davis, vice president of B.J. Systems; Anthony Salvemini, a lawyer with the federal government; and Glenn Garnes, a lawyer specializing in immigration law.