Examples of rampant, uncheck racism in a Maryland police department included white cops calling for the reinstitution of lynching and painting blackface on a training dummy, according to a federal lawsuit.
Those were just a few of the examples a group of current and former Black and Hispanic officers alleged in their discrimination suit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Maryland against Prince George’s County, the Washington Post reported.
It seeks unspecified monetary damages, including punitive damages, and a court order requiring county officials to prohibit racial discrimination in the police department.
Racism in the department extended into the minority communities that the department serves, the officers said. White cops allegedly called certain neighborhoods “sh**holes” or “ghettoes.”
African-Americans constitute about 64 percent of Prince George County’s more than 900,000 residents, the lawsuit said. Approximately 27 percent of residents are white. The department is comprised of 47 percent white officers, while Blacks account for 43 percent of the force.
“Many of our officers have witnessed abuses of people of color in our community, only to be retaliated against once they have reported the incidents. We need to ensure that when there is doubt, officers are confident to bring forth inquiries without fear of retaliation,” said Joseph Perez, president of the Hispanic National Law Enforcement Association.
Three white officers, in particular, shared racist text messages in the department, including one that read, “We should bring back public hangings.” Department officials allegedly ignored complaints about the texts—not even bothering to investigate.
This lawsuit is the latest action seeking to address the situation. Last year, these same complaints were presented to the Justice Department. Federal prosecutors declined to comment on whether they are still investigating the allegations.
However, the Associated Press received confirmation from one of the attorneys involved in the case that the Justice Department has been looking into the accusations. Federal authorities have been interviewing officers “on a regular basis, ” Deborah Jeon, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, told the news agency.
“Any police department that fosters a culture of racial harassment and retaliation against officers of color within its ranks cannot hope to gain the community trust and support that is so necessary for achieving better public safety for everyone,” said Dana Vickers Shelley, executive director of the ACLU of Maryland.