- The Washington Times - Friday, September 22, 2000

The Prince George's County, Md., police chief yesterday moved to restore public confidence in the department by appointing a former FBI agent as civilian deputy chief responsible for overseeing police conduct.
Police Chief John S. Farrell and County Executive Wayne K. Curry named Roy Washington, of Mitchellville, as manager of the new Office of Professional Responsibility that will "police the police."
Mr. Washington's appointment comes in response to calls for Chief Farrell's resignation following public outcry over three indictments in the past two weeks involving excessive police force and 12 police shootings in the past 13 months five of them fatal.
The latest shooting occurred Sept. 1 when undercover narcotics Detective Carlton Jones fatally shot Howard University student Prince C. Jones Jr. (no relation) in Fairfax County, Va. An investigation into that case is in progress.
The number of police shootings has remained steady, according to statistics compiled by the county police department. In 1996, police were involved in 16 shootings, four of which were fatal, compared with seven shootings, four fatal in 1997, statistics show. Last year, there were nine shootings, five fatal, compared with 1998 when police were involved in seven shootings, three fatal.
At the news conference yesterday morning, Mr. Curry, a Democrat, praised Chief Farrell hours before the county police union was to decide whether to hold a no-confidence vote on the chief.
The union, which represents the county's 1,406 officers and 900 retirees, unanimously postponed the vote and, instead, invited the chief to speak to the membership next week. Chief Farrell accepted the invitation.
"I have always been committed to a policy of zero tolerance for those officers who abuse their authority," Chief Farrell said at the morning news conference in Upper Marlboro.
"I will not hesitate to terminate the employment of any officer who betrays his or her oath of office."
Chief Farrell said he is implementing new measures to restore the faith of county residents in their police department and to improve police accountability.
Mr. Washington will oversee all police disciplinary action and monitor internal-affair procedures by reviewing the section's investigative practices into police misconduct.
"[The office] is designed to identify and correct the abuse of police authority and dangerous procedural shortcuts," Mr. Curry said.
Mr. Washington starts in his new position on Oct. 2 after his retirement from the FBI where he has supervised the office of professional responsibility for the past three years. Before that, he was a special agent in Cleveland investigating labor-racketeering, white-collar and organized crime.
Mr. Curry said Chief Farrell has worked hard to improve the department and its disciplinary measures since accepting his position in September 1995. Since then, 60 employees charged with misconduct were fired or resigned, Mr. Curry said.
"My deep concern is that the recent events have threatened years of hard work and commitment to our community," said Mr. Curry. He blamed "a small group of officers who need to be dealt with swiftly."
Mr. Curry said he will ask state legislators to sponsor a bill that would speed up the disciplinary hearings of police officers. Under current Maryland law, a police supervisor cannot question an officer until 10 days after an incident has occurred.
"In the end, it can take up to a year to discipline the officers," Mr. Curry said.
Chief Farrell said the county also will create a professional compliance unit, under the Internal Affairs Section, that will be staffed by investigators who will conduct inspections of arrest-processing centers and interview offenders, and charge officers with traffic violations.
In addition, the county will install video cameras in all police-processing facilities and in 600 of the department's marked police cruisers. The cameras will record video and audio of all traffic stops. The tapes will be handled as evidence and will be reviewed "periodically" for quality control, Chief Farrell said.
The latest recommendations drew praise from community activists.
"I will stand behind him and make sure that these things happen," said Edythe Flemings Hall, president of the county's Maryland branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. "I'm delighted to witness a change in the right direction."
Ronald Williams, president of the Prince George's Community College and co-chairman of the Community Task Force on Police Accountability, agreed.
"We're going to wait and see whether these actions will work," he said.

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