Prince George’s County, Md., a major suburb adjoining Washington, D.C., agreed yesterday to make changes in its police department to curb excessive force by officers and restrict the use of police dogs, the Washington Post reports. Two agreements culminated lengthy Justice Department investigations that found systemic abuses. The county promised to take numerous steps to improve police performance and enhance accountability.
Compliance will be checked by the Justice Department and by a monitor chosen by county and federal officials. The county agreed to reduce dog-bite incidents by limiting situations in which police dogs may be used, draft a more detailed use-of-force policy, form a permanent panel to review all police shootings, improve the handling of civilian complaints, restrict the use of pepper spray, and create a computer database to store information about all facets of officers’ performance during their careers.
“It is an agreement of accountability and supervision and, I would say, high expectations,” said County Executive Jack B. Johnson. Redmond Barnes, a member of the People’s Coalition for Police Accountability, said that “many of the officers who have engaged in misconduct are still on the force. I don’t see them changing their spots just because of” the agreements.
“These agreements lay the groundwork for serious reform,” said R. Alexander Acosta, head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division. The Justice investigations, which spanned two county administrations and three police chiefs, will “help lift a cloud that has hung over this department for years,” he said said.