Alsobrooks said in a news release that she had asked for and accepted the resignation of Mark Magaw, a former police chief and the current deputy chief administrative officer for public safety and homeland security. She also announced that interim chief Hector Velez, who was recently passed over for the top job in favor of an outside candidate, will be retiring.
“I share the disappointment and anger of many in our community regarding yet another negative incident within our department,” Alsobrooks said in a statement. “I want to be clear that we are in a period of reformation within our department and we will continue to operate with transparency and urgency to address the many challenges that we confront as they arise.”
The county executive did not explicitly link Magaw’s resignation and her announcement of Velez’s retirement to the allegations against Lt. Edward “Scott” Finn, the officer charged with tax evasion.
Magaw and Velez did not respond to a request for comment.
The police department, and top leaders including Magaw and Velez, have been the target of a pending lawsuit in federal court that was filed by a group of Black and Hispanic officers in 2018 and alleges systemic racism and workplace discrimination within the force.
Finn, 47, has also been named in court documents related to the suit and accused of misconduct throughout his career.
Before his arrest Thursday, Finn had been suspended with pay for an unrelated “personnel” issue in March, the department said. The department would not disclose the nature of the suspension, citing state public records laws that prevent the public from seeing police disciplinary files.
On Friday afternoon, Finn’s paid suspension became an unpaid suspension because of the pending criminal charges, the department said.
Finn, of Dunkirk, Md., has been a member of the Prince George’s County Police Department for 25 years and has held the rank of lieutenant — a mid-level command staff role — since 2011. At the time of his arrest, Finn was assigned to the bureau of patrol. He was responsible for a group of officers in District 8, covering the northeast region of the county.
He is accused of attempting to evade taxes on the private security business, Edward Finn Inc., from 2014 to 2019. The company coordinates security work for off-duty law enforcement officers at apartment complexes and businesses in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties — a common form of what’s called “secondary employment” for police, according to prosecutors.
If convicted, Finn could face up to five years in prison and a $500,000 fine.
In her statement, Alsobrooks thanked the U.S. attorney’s office for “working to ensure officers like Lt. Finn are being held accountable for abusing their authority and eroding public trust.” On Friday afternoon, a federal judge released Finn from law enforcement custody but ordered him to surrender his passport and his collection of 150 guns. He is not permitted to leave the region while his case is pending, the judge said, nor is he allowed to have contact with five unidentified witnesses. Finn’s attorney, Tim Maloney, had no objections to the conditions suggested by federal prosecutors. When asked if he would obey the conditions when released, Finn told the judge: “One thousand percent, and thank you.”
She added that “the actions of officers like Lieutenant Finn do not reflect their desire to serve our residents and continue working hard to build trust between our Department and the community.”
Maloney declined to comment when contacted by a reporter.
On Thursday, before Alsobrooks announced his retirement, Velez wrote in an email to the department that all work through Finn’s business would be prohibited after April 26.
Prosecutors allege in court records that Finn failed to report more than $1.3 million in taxable income from the business on his personal and corporate tax returns for the five-year period. Finn deposited the $1,397,295 worth of checks written to the business into his personal bank account and the accounts of his children, according to prosecutors. By not reporting this income, prosecutors say Finn avoided paying nearly half a million dollars in taxes.
Throughout his 25-year career with the department, Finn has been awarded the medal of valor on three separate occasions. But Finn has also been accused of lying and using excessive force, allegations that were documented by The Washington Post in the early 2000s when he was still new to the department. Finn was cleared by a panel of his peers in those cases, according to Post reporting, and went on to receive raises and promotions.
Finn was also investigated — and exonerated — for his role in the arrest of 29-year-old Elmer C. Newman Jr., who was high on cocaine and collapsed and died in a police holding cell an hour after he was detained. The arresting officers said his injuries were self-inflicted, but a medical examiner later determined the police had fractured his ribs and broken two bones in his neck.
Finn, Magaw and Velez were all mentioned by name alongside dozens of other members of the police department in a report filed in court as part of an ongoing discrimination lawsuit against the police department. The report was written by an expert witness hired by the plaintiffs to analyze demographic and disciplinary data for patterns of systemic racism. Velez, who once oversaw internal affairs, took over as interim chief last summer after then-chief Hank Stawinski resigned amid fresh allegations related to the lawsuit.
As department leaders, Magaw, Velez and Stawinski have been accused in the suit and by community organizers of failing to address discrimination within the department — which they said ultimately has an adverse effect on residents of Prince George’s, who are 80 percent Black and Hispanic.
After the expert report was unsealed by a federal judge earlier this year, those community groups called on the county executive to “clean house” at the department. About a month later, Alsobrooks announced she had selected Dallas deputy chief Malik Aziz to be the county’s next police chief. He starts in May and will be tasked with implementing 46 reforms that Alsobrooks’s work group recommended last year.
“Unfortunately, the issues that we are confronting are systemic issues that did not start under my Administration,” Alsobrooks said in her statement Friday, “but I am going to do everything in my power to ensure that they end under my watch.”