Pr. Geo.'s chief to review suspensions
The interim Prince George's County police chief said Tuesday that as his first official acts, he plans to create a special office to oversee side jobs officers work and have a panel that normally handles police shootings review the cases of the now 47 officers on suspension or desk duty for various types of misconduct.
Making his first public comments at a news conference with new county executive Rushern L. Baker III, interim chief Mark Magaw said he hopes those two initiatives -- which will begin by week's end -- will jump start the department's effort to "move forward."
He said he also plans to delegate more authority to his commanders than they have seen in recent years.
"While change is not always easy or welcome, it often provides an organization with the opportunity to move forward," Magaw said.
Magaw's appointment appears to have delivered an immediate boost to morale in the Prince George's department, which has been beleaguered in recent months by allegations of cheating in the police training academy and the arrests of three officers as part of a broad federal corruption probe. Commanders gave the interim chief a standing ovation when he was introduced, and Baker said explicitly that "morale" was one of the most important considerations in his making a change at the helm.
Commanders are anticipating that Magaw will undo many of the transfers enacted by his predecessor, Roberto Hylton - especially those that were thought to be punishments against outspoken officers. Magaw said the transfers of the two commanders who first raised questions about impropriety in the police academy will be reviewed by a panel that normally handles police shootings this week.
That panel -- composed of all the department's deputy chiefs, another police commander, a training academy representative and a county attorney -- will scrutinize the cases of all 47 officers on desk duty or suspension, making sure all the investigations were thorough and clearing those cases that need to be cleared, Magaw said.
Magaw also said he would create a special office, headed by a police major, to monitor all the part-time security jobs that officers work. He offered few specifics but said the office would "ensure that both the employers and the officers working are following the rules." Hylton had already commissioned a group to review secondary employment in the wake of federal charges against two officers who were thought to be helping a liquor store owner smuggle cigarettes and booze.
"There's a lack of supervision here that we're looking into," Magaw said. "The office of secondary employment, the main focus of that is to vet out the different businesses that want officers to work there, to make sure that they're legitimate businesses that hold the same values as this community and this police department."
Though popular internally, Magaw does not seem to have a shot at the permanent chief's job. Asked by a reporter if Magaw was going "to be a candidate or is being considered for the permanent position," Baker explicitly said, "No."
"I will do a nationwide search and an internal search for a permanent police chief," he said. "But right now, Chief Magaw is the police chief ... We don't know how long the search will take. But I wouldn't feel comfortable taking my time in searching out if I did not feel that the police chief along with his command staff could carry on the fine duties that they've been doing."
Magaw said he would have to talk with his family before he could consider taking the job permanently, if offered.
This post has been updated.
| December 7, 2010; 2:30 PM ET
Categories: Matt Zapotosky, Pr. George's
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