Sunday, March 20, 2016

Social Movements Against Racist Police Brutality and Department of Justice Intervention in Prince George's County, Maryland

Racist police brutality has been systemic in Prince George's County, Maryland. The victims include African Americans, the mentally challenged, and immigrant populations, creating a complex and uneven public health impact. Three threads characterize the social movements and intervention since 1970. 

First, a significant demographic shift occurred as African Americans became the majority population in the late 1980s when the first Black county executive was elected in 1994. Despite the change in political leadership, police brutality remained rampant. Lower-income households located close to the District of Columbia and "inside the beltway" experienced the most police brutality. 

In 2001, The Washington Post revealed that between 1990 and 2000, Prince George's police shot and killed more citizens per officer than any of the 50 largest city and county law enforcement agencies in the country, 84 % of whom were black. Of the 147 persons shot during the 1990s, 12 were mentally and/or emotionally disturbed; 6 of these shootings were fatal. 

Second, resistance to police brutality emerged in a variety of political formations throughout the period, especially in the late 1990s. Sustained community pressure prompted the Department of Justice (DOJ) to open a civil rights investigation of the police department in November 2000. To avoid a potential federal lawsuit, the county leadership negotiated a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the DOJ to enact policy reforms, part of which called for supplementing the departmental mobile crisis team, comprised of mental health care professionals, to respond to all cases involving mentally challenged citizens. 

Third, the incomplete process of change subsequent to the ending of DOJ oversight suggests a continued challenge to social movements opposing police brutality. This study focuses on the effectiveness of the MOA along with the activism of the People's Coalition for Police Accountability (PCPA) in reforming a culture of police brutality. The intensive oversight by the DOJ, combined with engaged resident activism, reduced the incidences of police brutality during the period 2004-2013. 

Since the termination of DOJ oversight, disturbing developments suggest the need for continued and sustained activism. Since 2010, county police officers have fatally shot 21 people, several in questionable circumstances. 

At the same time, the Prince George's Police Department has received more tactical military weaponry than any other jurisdiction in the state of Maryland under the 1033 program of the National Defense Authorization Act.

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By:    Hutto JW Sr1Green RD2.
  • 1Howard University, Washington, DC, USA.
  • 2Howard University, Washington, DC, USA. 
  •  2016 Feb 16.

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