Prince George’s Co. police dept. opens review of hiring practices, hopes to raise recruiting numbers

Prince George’s County has launched a review into how it hires police officers, as the Maryland county competes for a smaller number of recruits interested in the job.

The police chief told WTOP that he isn’t daunted by how recent turmoil might affect building his ranks, and that he plans to offer departmentwide change as a “carrot” for cadets.

Part of the strategy to pull in new recruits is to take a look at whether the hiring process is holding the police department back from reaching larger cadet class sizes, Chief Malik Aziz said in an exclusive interview.

“What used to deny people in the past 30, 40, 50, 60 years ago, they no longer do that. So we always have to look at our qualifications, our disqualifiers, the mission process, things that make sense, and things that don’t. So I’m looking at everything in order to bring people in,” he said.

In addition to physical and psychological testing, officers in Prince George’s County must pass a written test, multiple performance tests and a polygraph test. They must also clear a background test. The disqualifiers of the background test were not immediately available.

The latest class that starts in November has 17 hired recruits, according to county police data. The department wants to get to 30.

But the Prince George’s County Police Department’s recent history may not make it the most desirable place to work, something that was pointed out to the chief during the one-on-one interview. Six of its officers were indicted this year, and in light of the department’s recent settlement acknowledging racial bias in the ranks, why would anyone want to join PGPD?

“Those are exactly the reasons why you would be a police officer, because these are the most challenging times. When you want to restore the profession, when you want to progress a certain police department — which is Prince George’s County in this instance — you want to be a part of the change,” Aziz said.

Aziz compared his department to a rocket ship and indicated he plans to seize the opportunity to embrace change out of turmoil.

“I was reading a quote by [Facebook COO] Sheryl Sandberg, and she said: ‘When you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, you don’t ask which seat. You just get on.’ This is the rocket ship. This is where we’re going, and you want to be a part of this change.

“You want to be a part of the restoration, a part of the rebranding, a part of a professional police force that engages the community, that invites procedural justice, that is about fair and impartial policing, that cares about officer safety and wellness,” Aziz said.

The department could not share who is part of the review of the officer-hiring process, what it might consider or when it would conclude.

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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