Prince George’s County police reform work group gets briefing on how police misconduct is investigated

The Prince George’s County, Maryland, Police Reform Work Group met on Thursday and heard from police and state’s attorney’s staff on the process involved in internal affairs investigations.

Prince George’s County police Maj. James McCreary outlined the process of carrying out internal affairs investigations and presented a set of detailed flow charts.

Glenn Ivey, a member of the county’s work group and a former Prince George’s County State’s Attorney, commented on the level of complexity displayed in the flow chart. 

“It looks like a puzzle,” he said, eliciting laughs from the work group members and McCreary.

But referring to the lengthy process in investigating allegations of wrongdoing by police, Ivey asked, “To what extent are there ways to shore that up and cut to the chase a little bit?”

McCreary replied, “I don’t know if there’s a way to shorten it — if the panel has a recommendation — but we want to make sure that it’s thorough,” he said, referring to investigations into misconduct or possible criminal behavior.

Ivey also asked about cases such as that of the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota. He noted that Officer Derek Chauvin was fired the day after bystanders posted a video of Floyd’s death was online. Ivey asked if there is a scenario, “where what you see is just so egregious that you can fire somebody, and does that ever get used in use-of-force scenarios?”

McCreary answered by referring to a case in which a Prince George’s County police officer — Cpl. Michael Owen — was charged for the killing of a man in custody.

“In that situation, we saw that that use of force was so egregious that we worked in conjunction with the state’s attorney’s office and charged Officer Michael Owen the very next day,” McCreary said.

Owen remains held without bond, charged with second-degree murder, along with several other offenses.

He has not been fired but was suspended without pay, according to Prince George’s County police.

Renee Mortel Joy, chief of the Public Integrity Unit of the Prince George’s County State’s Attorney’s Office, explained why use-of-force cases can be difficult to prosecute.

Joy said the legal standard in use-of-force cases demands that the premise of what a “reasonable officer would do” must be followed in any given situation.

“Something that looks cut and dry to the community as an unreasonable use of force,” can actually be a very tough case to make in a court of law, Joy said.

Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy told the members of the work group that among the challenges in prosecuting officers whose actions could rise to a criminal charge is the fact that Maryland law restricts access to personnel records.

Joy said Baltimore City has come up with an agreement between the Solicitor General’s Office, the court and the state’s attorney’s office to allow for full access to personnel records.

“I think it would be very important and helpful” to have the same arrangement, Braveboy said.

Braveboy also said that she would support having a similar arrangement if the work group wanted to include a recommendation to allow for more access to personnel records.

The work group is expected to finish its work and issue a report on police reform to Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks by the end of October.

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