The Real News Network Joins Lawsuit Against Maryland Police Department

By: Stephen Janis | July 23, 2020

The Real News Network, the NAACP Prince George’s County Branch, and the National Action Network have filed a joint motion asking a judge to unseal a report that contains details of discrimination and racial bias within the police department of Prince George’s County, Maryland.

The motion, filed this week in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, seeks the release of an unredacted version of the so-called Graham Report, an independent investigation that found the department failed to address racial bias against officers of color or act on complaints of racist behavior by individuals employed by the agency.

The report was commissioned as part of an ongoing lawsuit filed by a group of African-American and Latino officers earlier this year. The suit alleges the department routinely brushed aside claims of discrimination against officers of color and ignored complaints of racist behavior by officers towards residents. It also alleged Black and Latino officers were routinely passed over for promotion.

However, key details like the names of the officers accused of wrongdoing were shielded from public disclosure after lawyers representing the department asked a judge to seal substantial parts of the report. Former Prince George’s County Police Chief Hank Stawinski resigned shortly after the redacted report was released.

In the motion filed this week, plaintiffs argue the redacted information is critical to prompting needed reforms inside the department and to holding specific officers accountable for their actions.   

“Much of the Graham Report’s salient information—such as allegations of racial discrimination and harassment within the PGPD and the identities of the public officials perpetrating such discrimination and harassment—is hidden from public view,” the motion states.

“The Real News believes strongly in and will for fight for the public’s right to know,” said TRNN’s Executive Director John Duda. “Particularly when it comes to policing, which is under increased scrutiny for good reason, we believe full transparency is absolutely essential.”  

The Prince George’s County Police Department is no stranger to controversy.

Earlier this year officer Michael Owen Jr. shot and killed William Green, who was handcuffed and sitting in the front of Owen’s patrol car. Owen was charged with second-degree murder and is currently awaiting trial.

Prince George’s County entered into a consent decree with the Department of Justice in 2004. The DOJ’s investigation concluded the police department employed unconstitutional and racist tactics that were hidden from public scrutiny—A fact cited in the new motion as a critical justification for making the report available to the public.

“The documents sought by Plaintiffs thus fall squarely within the types of documents which must be publicly available if we are to have a functional and accountable system of local government,” the motion states.

Related Bios

Stephen Janis

Stephen Janis is an award-winning investigative journalist whose work has been acclaimed both in print and on television. As the Senior Investigative Reporter for the now defunct Baltimore Examiner, he won two Maryland DC Delaware Press Association Awards for his work on the number of unsolved murders in Baltimore and the killings of prostitutes. His…