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Prince George’s officers claim retaliation since filing civil rights suit

Some of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit alleging the Prince George’s Police Department discriminates against officers of color are claiming they are facing retaliation at work since the suit was filed.

The lawsuit, filed in December, alleges the department is “pervaded by race discrimination and retaliation” and claims white officers use racial slurs, abuse their power against civilians, and steal departmental funds and property.

The plaintiffs, 11 officers as well as two law enforcement associations for officers of color, also claim the department’s leadership has not stopped a pattern of retaliation against officers who complain.

Since filing the suit, however, some of the plaintiffs claim they have faced additional retaliation, including suspension and misconduct allegations. In a letter to the court dated Tuesday, counsel for the plaintiffs said they plan to ask for a court order prohibiting unlawful retaliation.

“Our clients are disappointed that retaliation is continuing within the PGPD,” attorney Dennis Corkery said Thursday. “We hope Chief (Henry) Stawinski and leadership makes sure that it ends immediately.”

A spokesperson for the department declined to comment Thursday, citing pending litigation.

A female lieutenant was suspended Jan. 9 after being repeatedly denied a medical accommodation and an assignment away from the district where she claims she was sexually assaulted, according to the letter.

A male officer alleges the department instituted misconduct charges against him and transferred him in the lead-up to and after the filing of the lawsuit. A male captain says the department is continuing to pursue charges against him in retaliation for his role in the suit.

“Defendants’ retaliatory actions will cause certain of the Plaintiffs immediate, substantial, and irreparable harm,” the letter states.

Attorneys say they contacted counsel for the county earlier this month and raised two instances of alleged retaliation and requested a response. None was received, so the plaintiffs notified U.S. District Judge Theodore D. Chuang that they were seeking permission to move for a preliminary injunction.

The defendants are represented by attorneys from Venable LLP in Baltimore, Towson and Washington, D.C. Lead attorney Kenneth L. Thompson deferred to the department for comment.

The plaintiffs are represented by John Freedman, Peter Grossi Jr., Adam Pergament, Titalayo Rasaki, Matthew Lanahan and Matthew Horton from Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP in Washington D.C.; Jonathan Smith and Corkery from the Washington Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights & Urban Affairs, and Deborah Jeon from the ACLU of Maryland.

The case is Hispanic National Law Enforcement Association NCR et al. v. Prince George’s County et al., 8:18-cv-03821.

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