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NAACP demands federal investigation into Laurel police department

Monday - 9/10/2012, 6:34pm  ET

Dick Uliano, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - A recent videotaped beating of a handcuffed man by a city of Laurel police officer has spurred other complaints against police and a demand for a federal investigation.

The Prince George's County branch of the NAACP is asking the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the practices of the Laurel police department.

"There is possible police brutality and police profiling of the citizens of Laurel," says Bob Ross, president of the Prince George's County branch of the NAACP. "I think they're being unnecessarily harsh. I think they are targeting African-Americans."

The Aug. 5 beating of Dante Williams, 27, of Cottage City, was captured by a cellphone camera. Ross said this is the latest in a string of abuses by police.

"There seems to be a history of minorities being disenfranchised and their civil rights being violated by the Laurel police department," Ross says.

The civil rights leader also said minorities are under-represented on the city's police force.

The NAACP branch has written a letter to the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, asking them to launch an investigation into allegations of brutality, racial profiling and discrimination in hiring and promotions inside the police department.

Following the August beating, Williams filed a civil lawsuit against the police officer and the city of Laurel. The officer has been placed on administrative duty and the incident is under internal police investigation, the Baltimore Sun reports.

Members of the county branch of the NAACP say they will carry their complaints about police to Monday's scheduled meeting of the Laurel City Council.

City of Laurel officials have declined to comment on the NAACP branch's demand for a federal probe.

Robert Manzi, solicitor for the city of Laurel, tells WTOP it would be inappropriate to comment because the Aug. 5 beating incident remains under investigation.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)