A police chief in Maryland has resigned amid mounting criticism as his department faces accusations of widespread racism and discrimination.
According to The Hill, Hank Stawinski stepped down on Thursday from the Prince George’s County Police Department following the publication of a report alleging that minority officers in the agency faced unfair treatment.
Stawinski had been with the department for nearly three decades and accepted the position of chief in 2016, according to Fox 5 in Washington, D.C.
“Didn’t happen overnight”
A local NAACP chapter called for Stawinski’s ouster and 13 former and current officers filed a lawsuit against the county, according to CBS affiliate WUSA9. Officials announced his resignation on Thursday, noting it would be effective immediately, according to Fox 5.
Plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed a report this week claiming that the department punished Black and Hispanic officers who complained about prejudice within the agency and subjected minority cops to more rigorous oversight than white officers.
The report cites more than two dozen alleged incidents of racism involving white officers, including the exchange of offensive text messages and a racial bias training course during which white officers walked out, WUSA9 notes.
Bob Ross, the head of the local NAACP chapter, said the agency has faced “a lot of pressure” in response to the allegations that resulted in Stawinski’s resignation.
“This is something that didn’t happen overnight,” he added, according to The Washington Post.
“An important first step”
While local officials described Stawinski as a responsive leader who oversaw a drop in crime, they acknowledged that a change in the agency’s leadership was needed, the Post noted.
“To everything there is a season,” county executive Angela Alsobrooks said in reaction to the recent 50% crime reduction over Stawinski’s term as chief.
Dennis Corkery of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, which is a party in the ongoing lawsuit, described the resignation as “an important first step,” but advised that “there is still much more that needs to be done to reform the racist culture within the police department,” the Post reported.
As law enforcement agencies across the nation face increased scrutiny and demands for reduced budgets in response to protests for police reform, Stawinski is not likely to be the last official essentially forced out of a leadership position.