In the wake of incidents showing bias or prejudice against Black people in the U.S., the top prosecutor in Prince George’s County, Maryland, is discussing the role she wants to play in bringing an end to racial inequity.
“I’ve really been affected, like all of us have, around what is going on around our country, as well as our state, and even locally here,” Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy said.
Braveboy said her office will continue to make it clear that acts of hate or discrimination won’t be tolerated in the county.
One thing Braveboy said will help is a stronger hate crime statute in Maryland.
Recently, the General Assembly has changed the process, which will now allow someone to face hate crime charges without hate as the sole motivation of the crime.
“That’s a big tool that we can use as prosecutors to hold, not only an individual accountable for an underlying crime, but also enhance penalties against that person for committing a crime with bias or hatred,” Braveboy said.
She said the events of recent months also have her looking to push for legislation that would offer prosecutors increased access to the personnel files of police officers who are under investigation.
“We must have access to information that would go to the credibility or veracity of the officer,” Braveboy said.
Currently, Braveboy said her office has limited access to personnel files, and she is calling for greater transparency. She said protests around the nation, including the D.C. region, are supporting the call for it.
“Our constituents are asking for greater transparency; our constituents are asking for greater accountability. And quite frankly, they want us to be more courageous in what we are demanding, and so we have to respond to that,” Braveboy said.
Last month, Hank Stawinski resigned as the county’s police chief, following a 94-page report by the American Civil Liberties Union that detailed racial bias and discrimination toward officers of color.
The report alleged over two dozen incidents in which white officers made racist remarks or displayed racist behavior, and many of those officers went undisciplined by the department, while officers of color faced retaliation for reporting the incidents.
When asked about personnel files, Angelo Consoli with the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 89 in Prince George’s County said he would have to wait and see what exactly is proposed. But he feels laws are already in place for prosecutors to obtain information from the files of police officers who are under investigation.
“I see no reason behind it. I think that, my personal opinion, she’s playing into public opinion and what the rhetoric of what people think of the police now,” Consoli said.