Two Prince George’s County police officers were indicted Thursday on misconduct charges in separate cases — one accused of beating a homeless woman and the other accused of tipping off prostitutes to law enforcement raids.
The Prince George’s County State’s Attorney’s Office announced the charges from a grand jury against Cpl. George Merkel and Officer William Diaz.
Merkel has been charged with second-degree assault and misconduct in office over allegations he pulled a homeless woman to her feet by her ears and hit her on the head in September, prosecutors said. Merkel had called dispatch to report the sleeping homeless woman outside a vacant store. When two officers responded, they witnessed him yelling and screaming at the woman before the assault and reported it to a supervisor, prosecutors charge.
“We often talk about how the very small number of officers who get charged with crimes are not reflective of the entire department,” said John Erzen, a spokesman for the Prince George’s County State’s Attorney’s Office. “This case really shows that. You have two officers who are also on the scene who saw what happened and who knew that it wasn’t right and reported it.”
Diaz has been charged with obstructing and hindering a police investigation and misconduct in office in connection to his time working for a task force that handled prostitution cases. Prosecutors said he alerted a prostitute to police enforcement operations so she could avoid arrest and had asked a prostitute for sex while on duty on at least two occasions.
Erzen said Diaz’s actions might have had an impact on a police operation that spanned a time between 2015 and this year.
Merkel and Diaz could not immediately be reached for comment and their cases do not yet appear in online court records to indicate whether they have attorneys representing them.
Merkel has been with the department since 2003 and Diaz since 2008. Both had their police powers suspended before the indictments.
The cases were brought to the attention of the police department, which conducted an internal investigation and brought the allegations to prosecutors for criminal review.
Prince George’s County Police Chief Hank Stawinski commended the “courage of the officers” who brought forward their concerns promptly.
“Timely reporting allowed our investigators to gather and examine evidence,” Stawinski said in a statement. “Delay in reporting prevents proper accountability because evidence is lost, recollections fade, and ultimately justice may be denied.”