As generational wounds burst open and conversations about police violence sparked anew in communities across the nation, the leaders of one of the wealthiest majority-Black counties in America decided to once again turn a critical eye inward.
In early July, a month after a Minneapolis officer knelt on George Floyd’s neck before his death, Prince George’s County Executive Angela D. Alsobrooks (D) formed a Police Reform Work Group tasked with scrutinizing the hiring, training and use-of-force practices in the local police department.
Alsobrooks said she put a great deal of thought into whom she appointed. Some people she approached. Others reached out to her.
“These are people who care very deeply about reform and care about justice,” Alsobrooks said. “I knew they had such a large stake in the outcome, and I knew there was no way we could put together reforms without the public input. We didn’t even need for the people in the group to agree with each other, and to be honest with you, that was important to me, too.”
Glenn Ivey was the Prince George’s state’s attorney in the 2000s, as the police department was mandated to reform under a federal consent decree. That period came on the heels of a huge demographic shift in the county from a majority-White to a majority-Black population, which ushered in a new attitude toward change, Ivey said.
The new policies and accountability mechanisms that came from the Justice Department intervention included implementing mandatory mental health training, required annual instruction on the department’s “use-of-force continuum” policies and de-escalation techniques, creating a layered system of accountability and rewriting the police canine protocols.
By 2009, the federal government decided that the Prince George’s Police Department had adequately addressed its failings regarding use-of-force practices.
“In a lot of ways, we got a head start on most jurisdictions in the country,” Ivey said. “Because we’re uniquely positioned as a jurisdiction, I think we need to assert that again, and there are some things that I think would really make sense in this moment.”