The US Department of Justice announced on Friday that it is opening an investigation into alleged discriminatory hiring and promotion practices by the Maryland State Police.
The department has the authority to launch an investigation known as a “model and practice” to assess whether discrimination in employment has occurred because of race, color, national origin, sexual orientation and religion.
“Our investigation will determine whether the Maryland State Police Department has created barriers of racial discrimination for black people seeking job opportunities and promotions and, if so, identify reforms needed to ensure equal employment opportunities.” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division said in a statement. “All communities deserve law enforcement agencies based on principles of justice and equity. »
The department said it notified the governor and the state superintendent of police of the investigation, which came to no conclusion.
Maryland State Police Superintendent Col. Woodrow Jones III said in a statement that he welcomes the investigation and will ensure the agency cooperates with the Justice Department.
“Significant steps have been taken and continue to address even the perception of racism or unfair treatment of any kind,” he said. “I have been committed to addressing diversity and inclusion issues throughout my tenure and the work continues.”
Jones also said the agency has worked with several organizations to improve the department, such as the Coalition of Black Maryland State Troopers, the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies and the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland.
State lawmakers have heard complaints from black troopers in the state that include a report last year highlighting racial discrimination and an incident in which a banana was left on the hood of the trooper’s car .
As the Legislature worked through and approved police reform measures, Sen. Joanne C. Benson (D-District 24) of Landover said some black officers feared that unsubstantiated complaints that come to light publicly could harm their reputations and that of their families.
Benson could not be reached for comment on Friday.
Sen. William Smith Jr. (D-Montgomery County), who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he respects Jones and his work in trying to improve state policing.
“It looks like a systemic problem that obviously needs to be addressed and has been rooted for a long time,” he said. “We will see what the investigation confirms. If what is suspected is true, it is certainly unfortunate.
Nationally, the Justice Department is continuing its investigations of police departments that include Louisville, Kentucky and Minneapolis. Police in those two cities killed Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, leading to international protests against police brutality and racism.