Angry members of the Prince George's County police force said last night that they are trying to get rank-and-file officers to refuse to work Monday and Tuesday in a protest of the Terrence Johnson verdict.
Although no formal meeting was held, it was learned last night that members of the police union's board of directors decided yesterday to "get the word out" for all members of the union to stay off their jobs.
"I am not saying we have voted to stay out," police union president Laney Hester said last night. "But I know a lot of guys have told me they feel kind of sick about what happened . . . and might want to take one day for each to feel better and pay tribute" to the slain officers. "In fact, I'm beginning to feel ill right now," Hester said.
The union, the Fraternal Order of Police, represents all members of the department through the rank of lieutenant. All but about 25 officers of the 837 member department are in the union.
"We have not voted a strike," Hester said. "This union is not sanctioning a strike."
But several policemen contracted last night said they would not work the two days. "It's a way to vent our frustrations," one officer said. "We think the verdict stunk. We want people to know we think what happened to Rusty and Brian was cold-blooded murder."
County chief administrative officer Kenneth V. Duncan said County Executive Lawrence J. Hogan may try to meet with police officers today in an effort to talk them out of "overreacting."
Johnson, 16, was on trial for murder in the shooting deaths of officers Albert M. (Rusty) Claggett IV and James Brian Swart last June 26 in the Hyattsville police station.
Yesterday, a jury convicted Johnson of voluntary manslaughter and illegal use of a handgun in the death of Claggett. Johnson was found not guilty by reason of insanity in the death of the second officer, Swart.
Police cheif John W. Rhoads, reached late last night, said he was aware of the possibility of that his men would not report for work but said he hoped, "cooler heads will prevail.
"It's been a trying day and these guys have got a lot of grief and a lot frustration. They can't understand what the jury was saying. Neither can I.
"They don't like the verdict and neither do I. I'm extremely disappointed. When I heard about it I got extremely hostile and the men are extremely hostile, too.
"As far as I'm concerned, two homicides, murders, were committed. We're trying to figure out who in the world those two men aren't with us. It doesn't make sense. Nothing happened to justify it. It's been an ongoing saga for all of us. My heart just goes out to all the families."
Told of Hester's comment about feeling ill, Rhoads said, "There are a lot of us who don't feel very well today."
Duncan said he expected Hogan to appeal to the rank-and-file to work. "it is certainly understandable for emotions to be running high after something like this has happened," he said. "I would hope they will guard against overeaction."
Duncan said he already had talked a Rhoads about the situation and expected to discuss it with Hogan later last night. Hogan was attending a dinner party and could not be reached for comment.
"The men in this department are fed up," Hester warned yesterday afternoon. "I thnik they're going to start using their guns more."