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Hyattsville denies racism allegations against police department

Matt Zapotosky

The City of Hyattsville lashed back Wednesday at police officers who leveled accusations of racial discrimination and retaliation against the city police department, saying in a news release that the officers can "clarify the record" by waiving their privacy rights so their personnel and internal investigation files can be released.

Retired Lt. Gary Blakes and suspended officer Barbara Smith have accused the department of retaliating against them with unjust suspensions for speaking out against improper conduct and discrimination by commanders.

The five-paragraph statement says the city “firmly believes there is no factual basis for any of these allegations” and “is confident that any investigation will demonstrate that the city has acted responsibly and appropriately.”

The statement briefly mentions the cases of Blakes and Smith, though it does not say specifically why they were suspended. Blakes and Smith have alleged that their suspensions were because of their outspokenness about the department, and Blakes has said he was forced to retire.

The statement says city officials “cannot discuss detailed personnel matters in employee personnel files. However, Blakes and Smith can clarify the record by waiving these privacy rights and the city would honor such a request and release their personnel and/or internal investigation files.”

Full text of the statement:

The City of Hyattsville has not, does not, and will not condone any discriminatory actions. The City specifically denies the recent allegations of racism and disparate treatment raised in a campaign by the Prince George’s and Montgomery County branches of the NAACP, the most recent event being a press conference staged across the street from the City Municipal Building on Tuesday, June 1. The City firmly believes there is no factual basis for any of these allegations. The City is currently cooperating with the Department of Justice and is confident that any investigation will demonstrate that City has acted responsibly and appropriately.
The City complies with the Maryland Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights to ensure impartiality. Mr. Gary Blakes was afforded his full state-mandated rights to have a three-person Trial Board of his peers, none of whom would have been employees of the City of Hyattsville. Rather than chose to defend his actions, Blakes opted to resign prior to the scheduled date.
In an interview with Prince George’s County Television in January 2010, Hyattsville Police Chief Douglas Holland noted that several of the initial accusations made were clearly untrue. In particular, female officers are always afforded the opportunity to be reassigned to light duty after they inform their supervisor of a pregnancy, contrary to the allegations made by Officer Barbara Smith.
The City cannot discuss detailed personnel matters in employee personnel files. However, Blakes and Smith can clarify the record by waiving these privacy rights and the City would honor such a request and release their personnel and/or internal investigation files.
City representatives have met with the leadership of the Prince George’s and Montgomery County branches of the NAACP. At their suggestion, we are currently evaluating issues to ensure even more impartiality and objectivity in the City’s disciplining of its employees. These include the designation of an individual to act specifically as an Equal Opportunity Officer, as well as reviewing policies to see if additional steps in the process may provide greater confidence that all investigations of allegations are completed in a timely manner.

-- Matt Zapotosky

By Matt Zapotosky  |  June 3, 2010; 8:30 AM ET
Categories:  Matt Zapotosky , Pr. George's , Updates  
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Comments

My money says they won't agree to allow their personnel records to be released. If they have nothing to hide they shouldn't have a problem with it. Same old story.

Posted by: gpl2411 | June 3, 2010 12:15 PM | Report abuse

The police dept. statement start off with a lie. Of course racism has been condoned; the History of Policing is colored with racism, so somehow Hyattsville is DIFFERENT?? LMAO, what a joke.

Go ahead and have your 'internal investigation' which clears the dept. of any wrongdoing and let's move on. No real reform will ever happen.

Posted by: kahlua87 | June 3, 2010 5:13 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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