A Prince George’s County police captain will be demoted after a trial board determined that he tried to leverage his official position for a personal matter and threatened a police chief from another agency.
The trial board issued its punishment Thursday against Capt. Joseph Perez, who has been fighting the administrative charges that he contends are retaliation because he has been complaining about unfair disciplinary practices within the department. The trial board, made up of three Baltimore County police officers, found Perez guilty of two counts of violating department ethics and one count of violating policies on loyalty.
The decision from the trial board followed three days of testimony and sustains the charges and discipline the police department issued against Perez in 2018 after an internal investigation found he had tried to use his position within the county police department to get time off for his son who worked as an officer for a neighboring agency.
Perez, president of the Hispanic National Law Enforcement Association, said he plans to appeal the trial board’s decision and continue to lead a civil lawsuit and complaint with the Justice Department alleging the Prince George’s department discriminates against minority officers.
“While they won this trial board, the whole situation with the Department of Justice and the lawsuit is not about me; it’s about the bigger picture,” said Perez, 54. “We’re winning because of the change.”
The reprimand from the trial board represents a second loss for Perez in recent months. Though Perez contends he is being retaliated against for his activism, a Prince George’s County Circuit Court judge ruled in a separate related hearing in June that Perez’s disciplinary case was not retaliatory and that the department “conducted a thoughtful and prudent investigation considering the unusual circumstances of the complaint.”
Perez’s case stems from an April 2017 encounter with police officials in Seat Pleasant, Md., where his son then worked as an officer. Perez’s son was denied time off and Perez went to the Seat Pleasant police station, where he asked Lt. Robert Ploof, then a sergeant, to reconsider his son’s request because Perez needed help with a move after his basement flooded, testimony showed.
Perez, who has worked for Prince George’s police for 21 years, testified that he merely was trying to seek a favor for an emergency situation. But Ploof testified that Perez intimidated and threatened him during the interaction.
After speaking with Ploof, Perez then threatened Seat Pleasant Police Chief Devan Martin over the phone, the county contended.
Perez threatened to make labor trouble for Martin, reminding the Seat Pleasant chief that Perez had been leading employment actions and Justice Department complaints against Prince George’s County, Martin testified.
“ ‘You heard about the complaint I made at the county,’ ” Martin asserts Perez told him over the phone in 2017, according to an internal county police investigative report included in court documents. “ ‘You know you basically, you know, got some issues over there — some unfair practices and I’d hate to have to come over and make a complaint around there.’ ”
At the trial board hearing, Perez’s attorney, Shaun F. Owens, said Martin’s and Ploof’s testimony could not be trusted, saying the two men lied about some of their conversations related to the investigation into Perez. Owens also said that Martin filed the complaint against Perez as a way to “get rid of this thorn in his side.”
Martin testified that every conversation he had with Perez after becoming chief centered on Perez asking for leave on his son’s behalf or about his son’s employment. In one instance, Perez asked Martin for time off for his son so they could go to a family reunion, Martin testified.
Perez testified that he wasn’t trying to “push rank” to get time off for his son in 2017 and denied threatening Martin.
“I said nothing along those lines,” Perez said of Martin’s testimony about alleged civil litigation over labor issues.
Martin said after the trial board hearing that “integrity is important” and that this case shows that “you will not intimidate and threaten members of our organization or our organization.”