Friday, March 07, 2014 5:04 PM
Published on: Wednesday, April 24, 2013
By Jim Davis
Laurel Police Department and the Prince George’s County Branch of NAACP signed a mediation agreement last Thursday to mend relations between police and the community.
Prince George’s County Branch of the NAACP asked the U.S. Department of Justice in September to investigate claims from Laurel residents that the city’s police department had violated their civil and constitutional rights and have targeted minorities and African-Americans.
In August, a number of media outlets broadcasted a video of a Laurel police officer striking a handcuffed man in the parking lot of Laurel Station Bar & Grill in the 14900 block of Baltimore Avenue in Laurel.
The state’s attorney for Prince George’s County investigated the incident and ruled there was no apparent criminal wrongdoing by the police officer, but D’Ante Williams felt that his civil and constitutional rights were violated and filed a $3 million civil suit against Laurel alleging assault, battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
“The proposed mediation agreement provides a framework for the Laurel Police Department and the NAACP Prince George’s (County) Branch to help prevent and respond more effectively to violent and non-violent hate crimes and other incidents committed on the basis of actual or perceived race, color, national origin, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, or disability,” said Pete Piringer, spokesman for the City of Laurel.
Some of the main points and issues of the agreement include improving communication and notification of interested parties in police situations with potential racial implications. This would include officer-involved, critical incidents in order to address rumor control and dissemination of accurate and timely information.
Additionally, Laurel Police Department and NAACP leadership agreed to conduct regular meetings, both separate and collective, to maximize community outreach efforts, education and recruitment of police officers from the minority community. They will also look for ways to increase visibility and interaction between the Laurel community and Laurel Police Department.
Laurel Police Chief Richard McLaughlin, Laurel City Attorney Robert Manzi, NAACP Prince George’s County Branch President Robert Ross and NAACP Executive Committee Member Glenn Brown signed the agreement, which was witnessed by officials from the Department of Justice Community Relations Services.