The Prince George’s County Chapter of the NAACP announced it will be asking the Department of Justice to intervene in investigating the Laurel Police Department amid claims of excessive force from city residents.
Backed by more than 20 residents, the NAACP held a press conference Monday at the Laurel Municipal Center saying it asked and address claims by residents they were allegedly targeted racially by city police.
Bob Ross, leader of the NAACP in Prince George’s, said the group would be sending a letter to the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division and the Maryland Attorney General to investigate claims by residents.
The NAACP has been active in organizing residents since a was aired on local news outlets.
Ross contends that city police have a history of violating residents’ civil and constitutional rights of young African Americans and other minorities, adding that city police suffered from racism and bad training.
“The community is living in fear [of the Laurel Police Department],” he said. “You need to find a resolution.”
Appearing in front of the Laurel Council during a scheduled meeting, residents testified about their encounters with Laurel Police.
Aarrika Scott, 24, told the council she was snatched from her vehicle by Laurel Police during a traffic stop in July and thrown to the ground so quickly that her dress fell below her shoulders and exposed her breast.
She said she was subsequently maced by police and then held for two-days without being allowed to make a phone call to her mother.
“I’ve suffered,” she said, adding that she was charged with resisting arrest and not for a traffic violation.
Other residents said that the community shouldn’t be too quick to paint all of the Laurel Police Department as racist.
Orwin Shortt told the council the police and community need to be work together to address the issue, adding that the youth also need to be held accountable for their actions.
“We need an aggressive police department,” he said. “How can work together to know who are residents and who are criminals?”
Laurel Mayor Craig Moe told the crowd not to be quick to judge the city’s entire police department by the actions of a few, adding that the officer involved in the slapping incident had been put on administrative leave.
“We can’t take a brush and brush everybody in the same category,” he said. “I appreciate these comments—we don’t take them lightly…I think it’s important for us to work together.”
Moe said the city has been working with the police chief to form a citizen’s advisory commission to address concerns in the community.
Still, residents’ claims against city police officers continued to mount.
Laurel resident Karen Matthews said she wanted to see the Laurel Police Department dissolved and Laurel's police to be left to Prince George’s County Police.
“I’m very unhappy [with Laurel Police],” she said. “Do we have police officers or do we have police bullies?”