Lawsuit claims Maryland park police force has ‘toxic’ and ‘racist’ culture

A police force that patrols parks in Maryland’s Montgomery and Prince George’s counties has a “toxic” and “racist” culture, according to a new lawsuit.

The suit, filed Monday in the U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, stems from the case of Mark Miles, an officer with the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission Park Police. Miles, who is Black, claimed white officers “mocked, demeaned, ostracized and humiliated” him because of his race.

Court documents claim Stephanie Harvey, Miles’ direct supervisor, “engaged in frequent and ongoing unwanted harassment based on race directed at African Americans, and other nonwhite racial groups.”

The harassment allegedly included Harvey referring to Miles as “colored” and telling him that his colleagues were worried that they couldn’t trust him because he was Black.

“Harvey and others also frequently talked about murdering Black Lives Matter protesters,” according to court documents.

Miles’ attorneys said that, in a text message chain between officers, Harvey referred to her own comments by stating, “don’t turn these texts over to (Internal Affairs) and get me fired for hate speech.”

According to the lawsuit, Miles was ostracized after reporting to management that he was dealing with a hostile work environment.

“A culture where racism and bigotry is the norm cannot be allowed to stand,” said Jay Holland, an attorney representing Miles. “The work environment that officer Miles has endured is horrific.”

Miles said he experienced a particularly dangerous form of retaliation in May 2021, when he responded to a high-risk stop and called for backup, but did not receive any help from his department.

The lawsuit claimed that the incident was “an act of retaliation” against Miles for complaining about “the squad’s racially hostile environment.”

The lawsuit called for Miles to receive “economic and compensatory damages” in an amount that would be decided at trial to address “physical and emotional distress, humiliation, embarrassment and mental anguish.”

It also demands Harvey be fired, and for the MNCPPC to undergo “monitoring of all employment complaints” in order “to prevent any further racial discrimination.”

Lt. Tracy Lieberman, a public information officer with the Maryland-National Capital Park Police, released a statement to WTOP Wednesday morning saying several officers involved in the case were suspended and referred to the disciplinary process for termination.

“While we cannot disclose the details of individual personnel actions or pending disciplinary proceedings, the suggestion that Park Police management ignored allegations of misconduct by this group of officers is simply incorrect, and we will make the results of the trial board process public at the appropriate time,” Lieberman said.

Lieberman added that the police leadership team “does not tolerate racism or harassment in the workplace and will not hesitate to put a stop to any such behavior whenever it arises.”

Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

Like WTOP on Facebook and follow WTOP on Twitter and Instagram to engage in conversation about this article and others.

Get breaking news and daily headlines delivered to your email inbox by signing up here.

© 2022 WTOP. All Rights Reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up